Carol Schaffeld of Chickamauga turns a lot of heads with her stylish hats and headpieces like those which have become a signature of the Kentucky Derby, which took place last weekend.
Schaffeld has hats to shade faces from the sun, aid in the survival of bad hair days and spruce up a mundane outfit. Whatever the need, Peaches Fine Millinery of Chickamauga provides an affordable and equally gratifying experience for women of all ages.
Schaffeld, formally a French teacher at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, said she was tired of not being able to find a hat that would fit. After her first millinery class 10 years ago, she decided to combine her Southern heritage with her international experiences for the birth of a one-of-a-kind style. The result was beautifully crafted pieces with elegant designs and exquisite detailing.
"It was late in life, but I thought I could do something myself, so I took all my talents and put them together," Schaffeld said. "It was a 'eureka' moment."
The shop, originally a gas station in 1940s, now invites women from all over with one task in mind - finding the perfect hat.
"It was an 'if you build it they shall come' kind of thing," Schaffeld said. "We've become a much more hat-friendly society in the last few years."
Tamlyn Collins, pastor at United Methodist Church of Woodstation, made the drive out to Chickamauga because she needed to find the special hat for a tea party she will be hosting at her home this May.
"Of all the places I've been, Peaches Millinery has the greatest variety of unusual hats," Collins said. "The owner has a great personality and puts a lot of effort into helping you find the right hat."
Schaffeld's talents have not gone unnoticed. She has won competitions including Best in Show at Chicago's Hats 2005 and the official Kentucky Derby Museum's Annual Hat Competition in 2009 and 2010.
Schaffeld said it has been a nice feather in her hat, so to speak.
She has also been featured in Belle Armoire and Georgia trends.
While she works on custom designs and creates hats all year long, crunch time is Kentucky Derby time. The favorite among consumers for the derby is sinamay straw, a sheer straw popular due to last year's royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Schaffeld said.
"Everyone wants big, big, big for the Kentucky Derby," said Schaffeld. "But it's a misconception that hats have to be huge to be a race event hat."
While there may be hats galore in her store, Schaffeld admits that she doesn't always have a hat on her head.
"I love the creation. The materials are pretty, the colors are gorgeous and there are no limits with it," she said of the process of creating hats, which for her is a "healthy obsession." "The most rewarding aspect of it all is working with people. I get to be a part of their event."