Inside the Story: Hat shop to continue hat maker's legacy after he passes away

Inside the Story: Hat shop to continue hat maker's legacy after he passes away (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) It's the end of an era for a legendary hat maker who made his mark in Utah.

J.W. Hats is the longest-running hat shop in the Intermountain West.

"We sell to cowboys, we well to movie stars, and we sell to everyone in between," said Shawn Whittington, who now runs the shop.

But sadly, someone important is missing from inside the workshop--James C. Whittington, or "J.W."

He spent 42 years crafting his product and passed away on November 9th at the age of 81. He suffered from dementia and passed away from a concussion.

"I lost my soul mate, I lost my best friend, and Utah lost a heck of a character," said Shawn Whittington, who was married to J.W.

The shop started in 1853 when Brigham Young helped Charles Tatton start a hat business.

Tatton later sold it to the Smyth brothers, and they kept it going for four generations before it went into bankruptcy in 1974.

Whittington bought the shop in 1977 and became one of the best hat makers in the country.

"Some of the most famous hatters today were taught by Jim," said Shawn.

Shawn met J.W. on March 2, 2016.

"I walked in to order a hat and two hours later we were still talking," she recalled. "He was just a charmer."

Two months later, the pair was married.

"Sometimes on the way to someplace else, you meet your soul mate and that's really what it was," she said.

The couple only got to spend 18 months together.

"It was magic. We were best friends," said Shawn.

J.W. was in the shop just ten days before he passed away.

"He said he would die in this shop and he practically did," Shawn said. "He loved this shop."

The shop now plans to carry on J.W.'s legacy.

"We are doing what he wanted us to do--to continue this tradition," Shawn said.

For more about J.W. Hats, visit the shop's website.