Henry the Hatter almost closed its doors after 126 years, but the outpouring support from the citizens of Detroit changed the course of this iconic business.
Photography by Corrie Colf
Henry the Hatter is bringing a new look to Detroit’s Eastern Market. With a wide selection of hats, plenty of style expertise and highly trained salespeople, anyone can find anyone the perfect hat — even Michigan’s own Kid Rock!
Henry the Hatter has been serving the Detroit community for 126 years, claiming the title of the oldest hat retailer in the U.S.
In 1893, Henry Komrofsky opened the store and only repaired top hats. He was so successful that he eventually decided to sell different styles of hats. As the store became even more popular, Komrofsky took the business a step further and began making his own hats.
With the expansion of his shop, he partnered with his former stock and delivery boy, Gus Newman. From there, they ran the business until Komrofsky passed away.
Newman then decided to sell Henry the Hatter to a savvy New Yorker, Seymour Wasserman, who uprooted his family and moved to Detroit. Wasserman ran the store with the help of his son, Paul Wasserman, who helped make it into the successful business that it is today.
Paul Wasserman always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and knew he was destined to work beside him.
“I always knew that I would end up here,” Wasserman says.
When his father passed away in 1998, Paul Wasserman took over the store. However, in 2017, he was not offered a new lease and was forced to close the Broadway Avenue location. With no place to go, he almost decided to retire and give the business to his employee, Joe Renkiewicz.
When Wasserman announced the closing of the store, he was shocked by the community’s response.
“There was such an emotional outpouring from the citizens of Detroit it was like something was being taken away from them,” Wasserman says. “It was very, very humbling and it really brought me to my knees and in a good way, it was like being at your own funeral and seeing what you mean to people.”
After that, Wasserman knew what he had to do. He found a new location in Detroit’s Eastern Market and officially opened his doors in December 2017. Wasserman then transitioned the business to Renkiewicz, who will have complete ownership of the store in 2027.
While the Broadway location served its purpose, Wasserman is much happier in his new location.
“It’s a much nicer building and a much nicer landlord,” Wasserman said. “Sometimes things have a way of working out for the best.”
Wasserman is a firm believer that stores like his give Detroit its character. The outpouring support from the community assures him of that.
“It’s never about me, it’s always about the business,” Wasserman says. “It’s nice that I was the caretaker for 45 years and that it has so much meaning for the people of Detroit. I don’t know how you beat that.”
Whether you’re in the market for a new hat or just want to visit this historic store, you can check out Henry the Hatter at 2472 Riopelle Street in Detroit’s Eastern Market!