WHEN was the last time you visited Gordon? Tucked in beside the Western Highway 20 minutes from Ballarat, the town is full of hidden gems and creative artisans doing very clever things. Sheina and Bob Petch recognised the tiny town’s potential 17 years ago, when Bob, a keen fisherman, visited the area for a spot of fly fishing. He noticed the little Anglican church was for sale, bought it, and the rest is hatter history.
The couple restored the historic church, which is now the Gordon Hat Shoppe, brimming with colourful hats in every nook and cranny. And while spring may be synonymous with ornate and occasionally kooky headwear, the Petch’s don’t subscribe to trackside fascinators - they’re more interested in hats that can be worn all year round, sensible yet stylish and made from fabrics that suit the region’s cool climate (most feature quality fur felt or Harris Tweed from Scotland).
As chief hat maker, Sheina has created a plethora of beautiful pieces, even inventing the reverse bow that sit on the Celtic Gypsy style and indicate whether you have a beau of a different kind, or are single. Gordon Hat Shoppe also sell matching accessories, from feathered brooches to felted scarves, all with their unique and colourful touch.
There are a handful of other milliners who also make items for the shop, some having done so for decades. While Bob and Sheina’s two daughters now help with the business, the couple are still kept busy greeting customers (along with their beautiful retriever Cloe), popping up at markets and festivals, running nearby antiques and bric-brac store The Shambles, overseeing the new Blackwood Hat Shoppe, and working on future endeavours.
Decades later, Bob hasn’t tired of fitting hats and finding just the right style for a stranger’s scone. “Selling hats and putting hats on is an interactive thing and even after 30 years of doing this, I still enjoy the interaction,” he says. “And the older I get, I think the easier it is.”
Gordon Hat Shoppe is on Old Melbourne Road and open 10.30am - 5pm, Friday to Sunday.
This story is from the new spring edition of Out & About magazine. Read the entire magazine online here.