A Face In The Crowd 

At Ju’s Hatters, a small shop across from Hume-Fogg, fedoras and derbies are custom-made for those with a head for fashion. Unfortunately, fewer style-conscious Nashvillians are wearing hats these days—unless they have “Titans” stitched on them. But Gloria Thorne has been trying to maintain the family business. Her husband William (most called him Ju) made fine hats worn by such characters as politico John Jay Hooker, state Sen. Thelma Harper, Garth Brooks and Cher until he became ill in 1997. When Ju died two years later, Gloria decided to keep the store going to honor him. “When I come in here, I feel like he’s still around, working on something in the back,” she says. It was love at first sight when Gloria saw Ju walking through the Arcade one morning in 1963. He was on his way to work at Nicholson’s Hatters on Fourth, and she was going to work at Castleman Jewelers on the second floor. “I thought, 'Whoa, he sure is nice looking,’ and he said he thought the same thing about me.” They were married in 1966—twice. Once at the courthouse and once in a church to please Gloria’s Catholic father. She continued at Castleman until it went out of business in the early ’80s. Ju later asked her to come help him in the shop. He shaped the beaver felts and straw hat blanks with steam and antique wooden forms, while Gloria handled the finishing touches and kept the books. With business slowing and Ju gone, Gloria’s family wants her to close up and move back to her hometown of Livonia, La. Better get that one-of-a-kind bowler before she goes.

— Jonathan Harwell Jr.


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