The Fender Skirt King

The world may be in turmoil but old guys are still going to restore cars, usually models like the ones in which they had their first romances. “And when they do,” says Big Jim Tidwell, 55, “sooner or later, they come to me.”

They come to Big Jim’s for fender skirts. Oh, Lord, does he ever sell fender skirts. His buildings on Highway 22 in Whitney, just an hour’s drive south of Dallas, are lined, floor to ceiling, with fender skirts that Fit every conceivable car from the 1930s through the 1970s, Over 6,000 in all, they are stacked and cataloged like FBI documents. Big Jim can put a customer onto the most esoteric skirt. f”One man drove down here from Kansas,? he says, “and paid me $750 for a pair of skirts for a ’41 Buick. Another came from Oregon to get a $600 pair for a ’42 DeSoto.”Big Jim sells mostly by mail sometimes $3,000 worth in a day, more than all the other dealers in the country combined, he says. “I guess there’s a king for everything, and I’m the fender skirt king.” -Tom Dodge

Mad Hatter

Joe Bill Miller is bonkers about boaters. Hats, that is. After all, they’re one of the best-selling styles at Bierner & Son, the 59-year-old Dallas hat manufacturing company where Miller serves as vice president of sales and design. His wife’s grandfather started the company, now one of only a handful of millineries left in the United States. And it’s one of the most successful-some of the firm’s best accounts are with Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Accessory Lady and Setfridges in England. Although many of Bierner’s basic hat forms come from Britain and France, the nuances are Miller-inspired.

Walking past a multicolored wall of hats, some with feathers, and others with striped ribbons around the brim. Miller says he loves the new fezzes as much as the old-fashioned styles. “They’re all my children,” he says, pulling an oversized, flower- topped shepherdess hat off the rack and placing it on his head. “I designed them all. How can I have a favorite?” -Ellisc Pierce


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