Chieffalo Americana hangs its hat in Cowtown
Compiled By Meda Kessler
Photos by Meda Kessler
Fort Worth real estate broker Rodger Chieffalo found a way to do what everyone wishes for — he’s turned a beloved hobby into a lucrative business. Along with his new bride, Jackie Chieffalo, the man known for cool, restored hats and cuff links, transitions from online to storefront when Chieffalo Americana opens this month.
Roughly a dozen years ago, Rodger began buying vintage cowboy hats at garage and estate sales and having them made new again by Joe Peters of Fort Worth’s Peters Bros. Hats, a downtown landmark. Rodger favors the “Shady Oak” style with a short brim made popular by businessman Amon G. Carter, nicknaming his the “Cowboy Fedora.”
“I had no idea how beautifully they could be restored,” says Rodger, who’d buy them for $30 and spend $150 having them refurbished. Giving them as gifts to clients, he started fielding the many inquiries that poured in after recipients posted photos of their new lids on social media. “Suddenly, I was having hats made for strangers in London, New York, Seattle and LA.”
When a Vogue fashion editor tracked him down, she urged him to open a store — online or brick-and-mortar. She also suggested he broaden his inventory, so he began sourcing vintage buckles and having Western-style belts made to complement them. One-of-a-kind cuff links are made out of clip-on earrings dating from the 1930s.
Business took off, propelled primarily by Instagram posts. Rodger admits he began favoring jeans, wild rags and cowboy boots over his typical tailored suits and dress shoes when checking out properties (he’s also involved in the current update of Roy Pope Grocery in Fort Worth).
Taking over a former retail space in a 1920s building along Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie Boulevard, the Chieffalos use custom wood racks on the brick walls to display hats. Glass-top display cases hold the small goods, and local artwork is on display.
Wife Jackie runs the retail end, finding Texas makers such as an Austin-based clothier selling chinos and khakis, to fill out the inventory, which also includes vintage Hermes scarves and silk scarves made by Wyoming cowgirls.
That gives Rodger time to find the beaver felt hats he now has restored in Stephenville at Capital Hatters. For summer, he’ll carry straw hats from Bowie-based American Hat Company, all with the distinctive 3-inch brim and 6-inch crown.
“I’ve wanted to have a store for 30 years, but I thought if it can’t be the best, why do it?” Rodger muses. “And now, we have the right time and place.”
Chieffalo Americana The boutique/gallery carries new and vintage items for men and women. Pop-ups by local makers, along with trunk shows, are in the works. Follow the shop on social media @chieffaloamericanastore for updates. 4698 Camp Bowie Blvd., chieffaloamericana.com