A photo of a business card and a ball cap
Ken Martin

Ken Martin’s love of hats goes all the way back to his childhood. “I was the youngest in a household of men that wore hats. That’s how you dressed.” Martin remembers detectives, cowboys, and other pop culture icons that made him realize that a hat could be more than just an accessory, but also a way to claim an identity and an image. “They looked cool!” he said.

Martin has worked in several different hat stores and is now using his considerable knowledge about headwear to start an independent business. “I teach people how to take care of hats, how to wear ‘em and how to work ‘em. I do steaming, brushing, and rejuvenation.”

Martin is hoping to expand this venture through his GoFundMe account, which can be accessed at www.gofundme.com/kenmartin. His goal is to be able to continue his business without worrying about inclement weather and freezing temperatures. “I’m disabled, which prevents me from being in the elements. Having this hat store would provide me with a controlled environment.”

Martin currently runs an occasional pop-up shop on 18th Street NW across from the blues bar Madam’s Organ. He hopes to turn this into a more permanent operation that will offer a wide range of products to his customers. “I’ll have hats, umbrellas, scarves, sunglasses, jewelry, visors, hair adornments, and handbags. And Street Sense of course! I want my customers to leave feeling like they accomplished something.”

One of Martin’s primary goals for his business is to educate his customers about the value of a caring for and preserving a hat.

“People think, ‘oh no, I don’t want to put out the money for a hat.’ But you can take the same hat and wear it year after year after year, and then pass it on. You can steam it, brush it, and put it in a box and it will last for years.”

Martin’s industry experiences coupled with the difficulties in his own life have taught him about perseverance and accomplishing goals. “I’ve always said to look for the three Gs in everything: the good, the gain and the God. They’re there in any situation. And don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do. That’s just what they can’t do. I’m a disabled black guy from D.C. and I used to own two businesses on K Street! Don’t tell me what I can’t do ‘cause I’ve already done it!”