“You can have my girl but don't touch my hat” -- Lyle Lovett
Nestled in the heart of downtown Bryan, Catalena Hatters and Texas Rose Boutique are two of our favorite retail stores near booming Aggieland. Over 35 years ago, Carolyn and Sammy Catalena began their business endeavors. The journey that led the Catalenas into this adventure is as unique as a cowboy’s hat.
The inspiration for Catalena Hatters was sparked in the early 1970’s, after Sammy graduated from Texas A&M and started working for Court Saddlery as a hat salesman. Carolyn explains that Sammy has always had an instinctual drive to own his own company and opened feed stores while in college. During that time, the local hatter passed away. His family made the decision to sell the company, and Carolyn and Sammy quickly jumped at the opportunity to purchase the store. Though their eagerness was met with compassion, they lost their bid to a cash transaction. “We had been married for a couple of years ,and we did not have any money just to pay cash for a business at that time.” Though they missed this opportunity, Sammy never let go of his yearning to open a hat store.
Opening a hat store has its own set of unusual obstacles. For one, the machinery required to produce hats is no longer manufactured. Special circumstances are required to acquire this type of machinery. In 1983, the stars aligned for the Catalenas when their good friend spotted a sales ad for the hat machinery in Western Horseman in Florida. Sammy happened to be in Florida at the time selling alfalfa cubes. “[When he] came back to Bryan, [he] went to the bank borrowed the money, and the next thing I knew is we were in the hat business.”
Texas Rose Boutique started in a very different way. Once Catalena Hatters was in business, they turned their attention to creating a gift shop. They opened the Texas Gift Store in the College Station Mall. At the time, they did not carry any apparel or accessories focusing more on homegoods. The store was a hit until Buc-ee’s opened nearby. “You could get the same kind of stuff in a gas station.” They tweaked the concept, added some apparel and jewelry, and moved the store to University Drive. The store did not perform very well, as this was during the crash of the local oil fields. In 2012, the Catalena finally decided to move the store adjacent to their hat store and focus only on apparel and accessories. Thus,Texas Rose Boutique was born.
Two weeks after celebrating their grand opening, Carolyn explains, “My youngest son happened to be here creasing hats for customers at 9:00 at night. He looked up and saw smoke coming through the wall.” Their neighbor’s store was ignited in flames, “We lost all of our inventory, all of our hats, and we had to shut down for a couple of weeks.” Catalena Hatters reopened after two weeks, but it took six months to reopen Texas Rose Boutique. The Catalenas persevered and were able to keep all of their employees. “We really felt blessed that we were able to survive a fire. Even with insurance, it is very costly. We were able to keep all of our employees, keep them paid, and keep them going so that they were able to come back.”
Today, the two stores are major destinations for Bryan, Texas. Nestled in a row of buildings downtown, the stores have seperate storefronts, but a giant horseshoe shaped countertop conjoin the two retail spaces. As the two stores continue to flourish, the Catalenas could not be happier. They even opened another Texas Rose Boutique located in the College Station Hilton Hotel. “We just love our business!... My most favorite thing is to watch our business grow. It is amazing.” Carolyn explains that as a hat store, you have to earn the customer’s trust. A hat is a very personal thing, and to gain repeat customers requires that the hat is made and shaped correctly. Catalena Hatters has definitely stood the test of time. With the addition of the Texas Rose Boutique, while you are waiting for your hat, you can shop for clothing and jewelry! It truly is a Texas staple.
If you need a hat, a gorgeous outfit, or some J.Forks jewelry, we strongly suggest you make the trip to Bryan, Texas and go to an Aggie game and eat at Layne’s!
Be sure to follow both Catalena Hatters and Texas Rose Boutique on Facebook and Instagram!