Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hatmaker Hoping for a Head Start

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hatmaker Hoping for a Head Start

Article excerpt

With a star-studded appeal to all "motherfunders," Pennsylvania's Bollman Hat Co., America's oldest lid maker, has launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise at least $100,000 to move 70 unique knitting machines from China to its Lancaster County factory.

The move would enable 41 new jobs at Bollman, which is still smarting from nearly 130 layoffs in the mid-2000s tied to competition from China.

In global-trade irony, the knitting machines, inventory now housed at a factory in Panyu, China, will allow Bollman to ramp up production at its factory in Adamstown, said Don Rongione, Bollman's president and CEO, a native of Northeast Philadelphia whose father had been a cloth cutter for overcoat maker Harry Fischer.

The machines, as much as 80 years old, would enable Bollman to make the world-famous Kangol 504, a stylized wool hat first introduced in Britain in 1954. It gained a passionate U.S. following in the 1980s, when it became the adopted headgear of the godfathers of hip-hop.

"It's really being a part of history and helping the middle class by creating jobs in America," Mr. Rongione said of the Kickstarter campaign. Bollman launched on Nov. 19, American Made Matters Day. It runs until Jan. 17. As of Dec. 10, $23,187 had been raised from 244 backers.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson plays a prominent role in the fund-raising video with an in-your-face pitch, wearing a Kangol 504 backward to show off the iconic kangaroo logo.

"Let's help bring Kangol jobs to America. Let's do this, motherfunders!" urges Mr. Jackson, whose affinity for the brand started with a grandfather who regularly sported a Kangol.

Bollman's route to Kangol came by way of acquisition. It bought the global license to design, produce and distribute the British company's head wear in 2001, and has been making some of its felt and straw hats in Adamstown. By the time Bollman entered into that license agreement, most of the Kangol equipment had been moved from England to China, where Kangol's owners had a factory operating from the mid-1990s, producing most of the line.

Bollman, which Mr. …

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