Sunday, May 12, 2019

Charlotte Wrestling History: The National Hat Shop

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Growing up watching wrestling in the 1970s in Kingsport, TN, our cable system carried WBTV-3 out of Charlotte for a few years. This was around 1975-1978 and I saw some of the great local promotional spots for the cards each week in Charlotte at the Park Center or at the Charlotte Coliseum (now known as Bojangles Coliseum.)

The local promos were the way the local events were sold, and they were often more fun than the wrestling matches we saw on TV. Conducted in those years by the great Les Thatcher, these interviews would always include information on the screen with the date of the show, the town, and the venue. They also included information on where one could go to buy advance tickets.

For just about as long as the Crockett family promoted wrestling in Charlotte, the primary advance ticket outlet there was the National Hat Shop on South Tryon Street.

Newspaper ad for wrestling at the Park Center:
"Tickets on sale National Hat Shop"

Gary Silverstein is the son of the man who owned the National Hat Shop, a Charlotte landmark for just over five decades. I communicated with Gary via email awhile back and he was nice enough to share some information about the National Hat Shop and his father's relationship with Jim Crockett, Sr.

"My dad's name was Isadore Silverstein, but he was always called Izzy. He opened National Hat Shop in 1932. We had four different locations on South Tryon Street. Previous to that, he'd owned a cigar shop (Dixie Cigar Store on E Trade) and was selling tickets to events at the old Armory, the predecessor to the Park Center and the Grady Cole Center.

He was in charge of the box office for all Crockett Promotion events. In fact for the Monday night wrestling events, my dad would bring the money home with him and make the deposit for the Crocketts. Jim Crockett was a close friend of my father, as was Grady Cole.

My Grandfather came to Charlotte in around 1896 and opened the Vogue Men's Clothing store. My dad was born here in 1903. We continued to sell tickets to almost every event held at both the Coliseum and the Grady Cole Center (this was prior to Ticketmaster) until I closed the store in 1983."

Look closely at the photo above. Hanging from the upper level of the Charlotte Park Center are two banners: the one on the left is for wrestling each week on WBTV 3. The one on the right is for advance tickets at the National Hat Shop.

My thanks to Gary Silverstein for sharing these memories of an important part of Charlotte's wrestling history.

(A version of this story was originally posted in 2012
on the old Mid-Atlantic Gateway website in the 
Potpourri section of the Resource Center.)