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97-year-old Norfolk hat business emerges from pandemic on top

Stark and Legum.PNG
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 23:03:11-04

NORFOLK, Va. - The COVID-19 pandemic tool a toll on local businesses, and a Norfolk hat business nearing its 100th birthday was no exception.

Stark and Legum first opened 97 years ago and was operated by the original owner until his son, Charles "Sonny" Legum, took over. Current owner Michael Benton started with the store as a salesman in the 90s and worked his way up to manager before he eventually took over the business in 2013 after learning under Sonny, who he still considers a friend and mentor, for all those years.

"Sonny Legum is a totally awesome guy," Benton told News 3 Thursday. "He's probably one of the only guys around who understand the hat business."

Legum told us he relied on Benton "with his judgment, his taste [and] his ability to pick fashion" and said Benton "evolved into an excellent manager and salesman."

During the pandemic, Stark and Legum was forced to close and had to move out of their old building at the start of this year.

Now, they've finally opened this new location on Granby Street, right by the old location.

The haberdashery is one of the few of its kind and offers services such as hat stretching and hat steam cleaning, which are not offered almost anywhere else. The business prides itself on its knowledgeable staff who really know hats, which has become somewhat of a unique specialty, and educating first-time hat buyers.

"If you're a first-time hat buyer, by coming in here, we're gonna educate you and let you know this is the right fit for you," Benton said.

Recalling his earliest memories of the shop, Legum said they used to sell hats from $1.95 to $12.95, with the latter being top of the line in those days.

News 3 photojournalist John Rector wrote this story.

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