Things to Do

It’s Your Last Chance to See the Texas Hat Museum

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Closing its doors after 71 years in business, Ben’s Western Wear in Cotulla is a South Texas essence which will be truly mourned. Take this last chance to visit the Texas Hat Museum and revel in the retirement sale which begins Thursday, October 12. Their regular hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. until they close permanently.

Established in 1946 in a former saloon by local rancher Ben Ludeman, Ben’s Western Wear stocks traditional cowboy garb in addition to items such as work boots, Texas mohair socks, and brush country clothing, designed to withstand weather extremes and offer protection from snakes and thorny brush.

Texas Hat Museum

Photo: Facebook/Bens Western Wear

In the 1980s, Ludeman passed away and his nephew, Stewart Martin, with his wife Jill, took over the shop. The Texas Hat Museum began in the early ’90s with one customer, who loved his new hat so much he wanted to leave the old tattered, sweat-stained one behind. Rather than tossing it, Martin hung it up on the wall of the Boot Room and the museum evolved from there. Martin understood that while the hat may not make the man, it did say a lot about how he lived. Since then, customers all over Texas, from Texas Rangers to oil field workers to famous cowboys, have been leaving their hats behind at Ben’s including George Strait, Nolan Ryan, Lamar Alexander and Dolph Briscoe. Under the Martins, books and homemade store catalogs were added to the store. Stewart passed away in 2006 and Jill has kept up with the ebb and flow of each hunting season and oil boom. Now it’s time to hang up her hat. After the store closing, the hats will be returned to their owners or next of kin. Visit this glimpse of Texas-past while you still can at 109 N. Front, Cotulla, Texas 78014.

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