Peter Grimm Neidermeyer started making hats so his friends would stop getting sunburned. Well sort of. The hat revelation hit him one day while sitting on a Southern Californian beach, surrounded by sun burnt friends. Always the entrepreneur since his college days in Oregon when he ordered hundreds of canvas sandals from Italy only to find he had ordered them far too small for the big footed Oregonians, the determined Grimm decided to try his hand at business again and headed south to Mexico to see what he could find. This is where the hat business found Peter Grimm. It was 1989; he was 26. Grimm returned to the states with an old station wagon full of wide brimmed straw hats. He gave the hats to his sore and burnt friends and went to the nearby beach shops to sell himself: “We’re all wearing these hats—put them in your stores.” His simple plan worked and the “wide brimmed hat” was a hit. Grimm’s first major customers were cities and counties who would buy the hats in bulk for their lifeguards. “It’s now the industry term for lifeguard hat… it’s like aspirin… it’s generic… every hat company in the world knows it,” says Grimm.
His trips to Tijuana became regular events, and when Grimm ran into trouble with customs he’d hand over a twenty and be back in business—a business that was now booming-- Grimm had started giving the hats touches of his own.