COPYRIGHT 2020 © PRESERVATION ALLIANCE OF LAFAYETTE
This building represents one of the longest-operating businesses in Freetown, and it is also well known as one of the best hat repair shops in the country. The hat shop building was built by John Martin, Sr., who in 1915 left Lafayette for New Orleans to learn how to clean, block and make hats. He returned to open a hat shop, and did so at 115 Cypress Street near the train depot. Shortly before WWI, he married his wife, Yolande Roy. The couple had three children, Marjorie, John, Jr. and Alice, and they lived at 308 Stewart Street, now part of Glenn Armentor Law Office property. The original shop burned twice from fires that started in the clothes pressing area. After the second fire, Martin built this shop between his house and the home of his grandmother, Philomene Francois Victor. Many years later, son, John Martin, Jr., returned to Lafayette after serving in WWII. He soon met Thelma Goodie from Maurice, and they were married in 1951. From that time on, Thelma worked in the hat shop with John, Sr. and John, Jr. A few years later, after John, Sr. retired, Thelma did the sewing while John, Jr. did the blocking and cleaning. In 1976, when John, Jr. passed away, Thelma was encouraged by friends and business associates to continue operating the business. She taught herself how to make a hat from scratch and how to clean and block hats. By the time Thelma retired in 2007, Martin’s Hat Shop had become the oldest, continuously-operating hat shop in the United States. Customers called from Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle and in between. They were loyal to Thelma for the superb quality of her work and her exceptional customer service.