If you find yourself in Old San Juan with a retail itch you just have to scratch (and who doesn’t?), resist the urge to follow the hordes to the jam-packed designer outlet stores and make a detour to 105 Calle Fortaleza instead.
There, the delightful Guillermo Jeffs has been selling Panama hats out of his tiny store, Ole, for more than 30 years and will custom-fit (using nothing more than a blow dryer and a hat block) one of his collection of 5,000 lids to your size and taste. Choose a jaunty variegated style in vivid red, yellow and blue, or go traditional and accessorize a creamy-hued fedora with a woven cotton band in the color of your choice.
On my last visit, Guillermo measured me and determined, much to my dismay, that my head would only fit in the largest standard hat size – seven and three quarters. (Must be my incredible brain – or maybe my head full of dreads.) Nevertheless, I left Ole with a capacious scarlet-ribboned Panama of my own and a functional and stylish souvenir of a great trip.
What off-the-beaten path retail opportunities have you discovered on your travels?