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American Hat Makers

Taking Heritage Direct-to-Consumer


Brand Strategy, Content Strategy, Design, IA/UX + Development


Shopify Plus



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Bringing A Wholesale Brand With Heritage Direct-To-Consumer


American Hat Makers’ roots can be traced back to the 1970s when founder Gary Watrous began selling handmade leather goods out of his Chevy Station Wagon. Over the years, the Santa Cruz-based brand has become one of the leading hat makers specializing in fine materials and leather.

In early 2020 the family business began to rethink its strategy and approached Zehner to simplify their online operations and reposition their brand. Through a new user-friendly design and brand strategy, Zehner and American Hat Makers repositioned the legacy brand from a wholesale, brick and mortar business to a modern direct-to-consumer brand.

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Improving User Experience Through Repositioning + Replatforming

The Solution

To transition American Hat Makers from a wholesale business to direct-to-consumer, we repositioned the brand and replatformed the eCommerce experience to Shopify Plus. Together with the client, Zehner defined a new vision for American Hat Makers that celebrates the heritage, integrity and craftsmanship behind the product.

Our team also worked with American Hat Makers to improve the site’s user experience to increase conversions and upsells. A refreshed photography and design strategy strengthen American Hat Maker’s legacy story, while bundles and add-ons offer added lifetime value. These components work together to bring American Hat Makers’ story of traditional craftsmanship into the modern era.

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Centralizing Content That Converts

The Solution

Blending product and content was an essential part of our collaboration with American Hat Makers. Our team set out to implement a framework that would empower American Hat Makers to keep their products and content updated through a centralized CMS on Shopify Plus.

The first step in replatforming was combining the three American Hat Makers sites into one digital experience on Shopify Plus. Next, we centralized American Hat Makers’ products and sites under one domain name. As a singular brand, American Hat Makers could own their customer information and data, which has increased both lifetime value and average order value.

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Pivoting Amid A Pandemic

Before the repositioning, American Hat Makers depended on customers discovering their products in-store. Because American Hat Makers coincidently launched their direct-to-consumer channel just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning, they immediately pivoted to eCommerce. As a result, American Hat Makers could grow and focus on their direct-to-consumer market despite the challenges a pandemic presented for many businesses. American Hat Makers’ success demonstrates that a DTC strategy was the right choice for their business and brand from the outset.


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