When you step into Salmagundi, the Boston-based hat and accessories shop, you’re surrounded by hats of all designs and greeted by employees eager to find your perfect style. For co-owners Jessen Fitzpatrick and Andria Rapagnola, there was no better place to open their shop than Boston.
“Hats are amazing because hats are for people with character and Boston has a lot of character as a city,” said Rapagnola. “We wanted to open up a place where we could have that play go on in here.”
Fourteen years ago, Fitzpatrick and Rapagnola opened their first store in Jamaica Plain, later expanded to include a North End location, and has since become a staple for hat lovers in Boston and beyond.
Earlier this month, we asked Boston.com readers which local businesses matter most to them and Salmagundi was praised by a number of readers, who credited the owners for bringing their personal touch and expertise to every interaction.
“Salmagundi has turned me into a hat person. My spouse and I have bought several hats there,” said Julia H. from Jamaica Plain. “The owners [are] very helpful and takes great care and pride in [their] products. Fun to look at the ever-changing hats in display in the window, but we dare not enter because we always come away with a new hat, needed or not!”
The store has one of the largest selections of men’s and women’s hats in New England, with prices ranging from $38 to $380. Once customers have purchased a hat, they’re also able to customize it in shop with ribbon bands and feather trims. The shop also offers blocking, cleaning, and repairs. In addition to the hats, they also sell jewelry, handbags, dresses, silk ties and bowties, belts, gloves, and flasks.
Because they aren’t in the business of catering their shop to one specific kind of customer, they’re able to tailor their inventory to the needs of all their clients. Salmagundi sources their hats from large companies and local milliners, but 40 percent of the more than 14,000 hats in their stock are designed by the owners themselves. They said the key to providing good service is getting to know how their customers like to express their individuality. Sometimes when designing a new hat, Fitzpatrick said he knows exactly which customers will be drawn to it.
“Everything is on purpose at Salmagundi and we’re like the great enablers,” he said. “We’re reading each character, letting them know all their options, and explaining to them all the different materials and all the different shapes. People feel better when they’re educated on what they’re purchasing.”
The last year and a half have brought changes to the store, brought on in part because of the pandemic. The COVID-19 lockdowns made it difficult to continue business as usual, but it also gave the owners time to reflect. After months of limited in-person shopping, the owners decided to remodel their Jamaica Plain location in a way that would emphasize the aspects of shopping that couldn’t be replicated from behind a computer screen. Now, customers shopping in-store can get a sneak peek into the work that goes into making and altering their hats.
“The experiences [post-lockdown] have been delightful,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re just really trying to bring it back to that original, old-school, super special feeling. People come in and it’s like, ‘Wow, no one does it like this anymore.’ That’s such a compliment to us.”
This approach hasn’t gone unnoticed by their customers, some of whom told Boston.com that part of the appeal of Salmagundi is the time spent browsing inside the store.
“Every item in the space is fun and funky, most of them handmade,” said Mags from East Boston. “Many hats are designed by the awesome owners. The staff is friendly and makes great recommendations. I love spending time there!”
Chris from Milton said he appreciated the ease of the shopping experience at Salmagundi.
“Jessen and Andria are truly unique,” he said. “They have the best hats and accessories for both men and women. For both everyday wear and special events. Their friendly hands-on approach makes finding what best suits you easy.”
Salmagundi is at its best when customers leave the shop with a lifted mood, said Rapagnola. “We’re not just trying to sell X amount of hats a day. I want people to genuinely feel good when they leave. That’s the whole game in here,” she said.
As we go through the holiday season, Salmagundi is in the business of making people feel good.
“Winter is long for us and if you ask me, the only really good thing about it is accessories,” she said. “When the sun’s going down [at] three, you better have something cute on to make yourself happy.”
Salmagundi is one of the dozens of local businesses recommended by readers as one of the best in Greater Boston. See our updating list of local businesses and nominate your own here. Find the businesses listed in the interactive map below.