I’ve had several careers. As a young man, I thought that being a dentist was the thing for me. I enlisted in the Navy as a Dental Technician. I enjoyed my time on active duty very much. However, it made me decide that becoming a dentist was not for me. Stayed in the Naval Reserve for 9 years and moved over to the Army National Guard and retired as a LTC.
Finished my active duty enlistment and went to college, hell bent on becoming a “Game Warden”. I graduated from college with a BS in wildlife and almost enough hours to minor in range management. I joined the Bureau of Land Management not long after graduation and became a “Range Conservationist”. I moved up and moved around the Bureau’s many locations including Washington, DC. The BLM and I parted company in September of 1994.
I headed off to Auctioneer’s School in Kansas City, MO. Graduated from Auctioneer’s school and went right to work at Ack’s Auction Service. 1996 rolled around and I left Salmon, ID and went to work for Charles Dickerson International Auctioneers.
Finally, here is where Hat Maker comes into play. My wife and I wanted to move back to Salmon. “I needed a job”. I apprenticed with Sullivan Hatters in Las Cruces, NM for 3 months and finally made the move back to Salmon and set up shop in a garage just off Main St. I fell in love with hat making and often wished that I should have made the switch to hat maker many years earlier.
I settled into a small shop with Klemmer Boots and spent time advertising and building up the business. JAXONBILT HATS was becoming pretty well known. In 2010, I got an email from a young lady wanting to apprentice with me. I had 2 or 3 earlier apprentices. My experience told me that my other apprentices wanted to spend as little time as possible and spend as little money as possible learning the art and craft of hat making. So, the receipt of this email was not that exciting, except that the young lady was from Australia. We began corresponding, I set my apprentice fee pretty high and asked what time frame, I could expect. To my surprise the answer came: “I’ll spend as much time as you want me too”. We agreed to 3 months.
About mid-October, in strolls Bernice my new apprentice. To make a long story short, it took me about a week to realize that I had an apprentice that would no doubt become a “Premier Hat Maker”. I was amazed at how quickly; Bernice “Ben” made the transition from project to project. Three months passed quickly. Ben went back to Australia, intent on opening her own custom hat business. My wife and I talked it over and decided to offer Ben JAXONBILT HAT CO through our Will. One discussion led to another and that offer turned into a partnership and JAXONBILT HAT CO. LLC, International was born.
Ben arrived in January 2013 to work full time with me and began building the JAXONBILT brand. We added JB’s Occasional Cowgirls and our Kids Brands of hats. Since January 2013, life has changed and JAXONBILT and I are on a new adventure. We are expanding as quickly and funding allows. It is my hope that the JAXONBILT brand will become well recognized and the JAXONBILT Hat location in Salmon, Idaho will become a point of interest and a point of destination.