ARLINGTON — Kim Munizza was about to drop $1,500 on a custom-made hat when she found what she wanted in her own hometown.
A Diane Keaton fan, Munizza looked up the actress’s Los Angeles hat maker and was planning a trip south. “Boy, can you drop a lot of dough on a hat!” said Munizza of the L.A. haberdashery.
But while walking her dog in downtown Arlington, Munizza, an interior designer, spotted FauxyFurr, a store that sells handmade hats, custom-trimmed boots and vintage clothing.
There she met hat maker Chrysta “Jac” Cash. By the time Munizza left the store, she’d ordered two custom hats, “a beautiful black hat with a wide brim” and a dove-gray fedora.
“I don’t need to go to L.A. to get hats,” said Munizza, who paid about $300 for each. “I found what I needed in Arlington.”
FauxyFurr, at 430 N. Olympic Ave., is owned and operated by Jac Cash, 41, and her wife, Jill Cash, 47.
Sales took off when the store recently expanded from 100 square feet to more than 500 square feet.
It helps that there’s a renewed interest in buying locally made goods since the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the real key to growth of the business was a behind-the-scene move — the decision to lease a warehouse in Arlington.
With that change, their retail venture vaulted from a part-time gig to a full-time business.
Is that usual? When small businesses expanded beyond a home office or shop, nearly 85% percent saw an increase in revenue, according to a Forbes Insights study.
But the build-out didn’t happen without trepidation.
“I’d had a backyard shop that didn’t cost anything,” said Jac Cash. “I was scared to death.”
Rent was now due the first of the month, every month.
Until they made the leap, revenue had been steady but limited, Jill Cash said.
Jill Cash transformed the Arlington warehouse, a blank canvas, into an office and workshop.
With more room, they bought hat-making equipment and sewing machines that could stitch through multiple layers of leather.
Having a dedicated work space allowed them to re-brand and become a handmade company.
Previously, Jac Cash had shared workspace with others.
“People were constantly coming and going, so it was really hard to have that isolated, creative time,” said Jac Cash, who creates custom hats from scratch.
“After Jill found our warehouse, I was suddenly in complete control of my surroundings,” she said.
Expanding the business also included buying a 24-foot trailer to serve as a traveling pop-up store.
“We began vending at blues festivals, rodeos and fairs,” Jill said.
On the road, they heard from women who had difficulty finding boots that fit their calves.
That led them to create “Boho boots,” ankle boots made from tall boots that are cut down, stitched and fitted with leather boot bands trimmed with feathers, conchos or fringe.
Jac is the hat maker and crafts person. Jill is the business manager, accountant and organizer. “I pay the bills and do the taxes,” Jill Cash said with a chuckle.
Jac described it this way: “She’s the riverbank and I’m the river.”
Ready to try on hats?
Country Rose co-owner Kathleen Shalan “has always been a big supporter,” said Jac Cash, who sold up-cycled handbags at Country Rose when it was at Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip.
“When Kathleen moved to this location in 2013, she let me have a little 10-foot-by-10-foot kiosk. In 2019, she graciously let us expand to a 48-foot-by-12-foot space,” Jac Cash said.
Besides handmade hats, the store sells new boots for children and adults, bolo ties, feather earrings and ankle boots fashioned by Jac Cash and her sister, Jen Boede.
Want a new look for an old pair of boots or a hat? Bring them in to be remade. You can also design your own snap-on boot bands from a selection of feathers, screw-on conchos and other trims.
Maybe you don’t normally wear a hat, but you like the look and want to stand out in a crowd.
“If you wear our hats or earrings or boots, you’re probably someone who is into fashion and is comfortable dressing up,” Jac Cash said.
But what style and shape hat?
No worries, Jac Cash will be your guide. (She doesn’t feel fully dressed unless she’s wearing a hat.)
Not sure which hat is flattering? Give her a minute and she’ll choose a style she is sure you’ll look good in.
It all starts with the right shape hat for your face and colors that complement your complexion, she said.
Wide brim or short brim? Flat crown or round?
A fitting can take 40 minutes or more. There’s a reason for that — a hat won’t look right if it doesn’t fit you.
After a fitting, it’s time to talk hat bands and trim.
“We work with a lot of reclaimed materials,” Jac Cash said. “We cut vintage belts down to make them hat-band size.”
At the warehouse, the labor-intensive hat-making process begins with a hat “raw,” a generic hat form made of wool or rabbit fur felt. The raw can be sized, fitted and shaped to become any style, from a fedora to a cowboy hat or even a top hat.
On a recent morning, Jac was steaming a tan hat blank on a wooden hat block. Steaming helps size and shape the hat, which was destined to become a fedora. Finished with that task, Jac Cash took a vintage hat down from a shelf and began trimming the brim to make it smaller — another slow, meticulous process.
From athlete to artist
Jac Cash began up-cycling clothing and accessories 20 years ago.
“I would buy little vintage purses and I would hot glue and sew fake fur to the outside,” Jac Cash said. “This was the beginning of FauxyFurr.”
Her interest in up-cycling led her to complete a two-year program in apparel design at Seattle Community College.
Her skills led to a job restoring classic car interiors and upholstery.
“I did full leather interiors from scratch, everything from headliners to door panels to leather steering wheels on $100,000 cars,” Jac Cash said.
“Every interior is different, every make and model is different, so it was hard to get into a rhythm,” she said.
But hats and hat making caught her eye.
“There is a rhythm to hat making,” Jac Cash said. “You get better as you evolve, and there’s no surprises — no hidden rust or mouse turds,” she added with a laugh.
To boost her skills, she began an apprenticeship with a Seattle milliner. “I cold-called him and he agreed to take me on as a student. We meet once a week in his studio,” Jac Cash said.
Jac wasn’t always an artist. At Marysville Pilchuck High School, where she played softball, soccer and basketball, she was a start athlete.
“I excelled,” she said.
Then an injury laid her low her senior year. “I went from superstar to not playing anything. It created a huge void in my life.”
Later, as a freshman at the University of Washington, she met a woman, a painter who called herself an artist.
“I was captivated by the concept of being an artist,” said Jac Cash. “I wondered, ‘What does that mean? How do you make a living?’”
It inspired her to try her hand at making things. “I turned to art,” she said. “It blossomed from there.”
Today, her fans, including hat customer Munizza, marvel at her skill.
“I felt like I struck gold when I met Jac,” Munizza said. “She can do all the things the L.A. hat makers can do. She is a wonderful, creative soul and she works so hard to get it right.”
Women in business: Facts and help
• There are more than 215,000 women-owned businesses in Washington. Nationwide, the total is 13 million, according to a recent report by the National Women’s Business Council.
• About 42% of U.S. firms are owned by women. That’s a huge leap from 50 years ago, when just 400,000 companies were owned by women, the report said.
• Last year, some 1,800 new women-owned businesses were founded each day. In 2021, 64% of women-owned businesses were founded by women of color.
Those are promising numbers, but there’s still more ground to be covered.
When it comes to startup funding, women receive only 7% of the venture capital pie. Nearly 90% of women-owned businesses have no employees, and less than one-sixth provide professional, scientific and technical services, the report said.
Need a hand? Here are some local resources:
• Economic Alliance Snohomish County offers comprehensive information about starting or purchasing a business, including resources for businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans.
• TheLab@Everett, a resource for new and existing businesses, offers mentoring and help with product development and marketing. They’re on the first and second floors of the Angel of the Winds Conference Center at 2000 Hewitt Ave. in Everett.
• For a list of state and Snohomish County business resources, including the Everett Community College small business accelerator program and the Washington Center for Women in Business, go to bit.ly/3K0OChK.