American couple trapped in Skipton bed and breakfast for 100 days during lockdown after coming to Yorkshire to buy flat caps

An American couple are looking forward to returning to the US after spending the entirety of lockdown stuck in North Yorkshire.

Chris and Chrissie Poe run a flat cap company
Chris and Chrissie Poe run a flat cap company

Christopher and Chrissie Poe were visiting the region to buy flat caps, which they sell at events in their home of Boston, Massachusetts.

Each flat cap they sell is handmade by three suppliers in Yorkshire, using British wool.

The couple were visiting their suppliers in Britain, where Mrs Poe is from, when the pandemic began and they became trapped.

The couple sell wool products across the US

Mrs Poe said: “We’ve had flights booked several times but they’ve all been cancelled. We’d planned to go to some places in Europe while we were here but that wasn’t possible - for example, we were supposed to go to Amsterdam for my birthday but that was cancelled.”

The couple are setting off today and will have a short holiday in the Dominican Republic before flying home to Boston.

She added: “Currently all the flights to the US are going via places like Mexico so we’ve decided to take some time going back home.”

While the couple were glad to spend weeks holed up in a countryside bed and breakfast in Skipton and said they “never felt trapped”, they did have some difficulties.

The couple sell items online and at events

Mr Poe’s father, who has cancer, became ill with coronavirus in the US and the couple worried that they would have to find an emergency flight home but they were relieved to hear he was recovering from the virus.

Mr Poe said: “It’s been challenging to relax, day by day. We’d only planned a short trip.

“We come to Yorkshire quite often because we like to spend time [here] and visit our suppliers.

“We love Yorkshire - it's great to have a connection here,” he said.

Whle men over 35 are their main consumer, they are starting to attract some younger customers

Mr Poe said he would “always have a place in his heart” for farmers, especially as wool prices are particularly low.

The average price paid to wool producers for the 2019/20 clip will be 32p/kg, half of what it was the previous year, and as a result of these low prices, a third of wool from this season will remain unsold, according to British Wool.

“We started this business because we have a belief in authenticity and tradition. We’ve found that people want that comfort and foundation right now. Life has gotten too busy and people like that connection to a simpler time, where there was a consistency to life.”

The tweeds and linens which make up the flat caps are cut by hand and sewed individually. Each cap takes about 15 minutes to make.

He added: “It’s handcrafted workmanship from Yorkshire and it all starts with the farmer.”

Mr Poe enlisted in the US Army at the age of 17 and retired last year after 29 years of service. He now juggles teaching resilience in both the military and civilian worlds with the flat cap business, Poe & Co.

The couple sell the flat caps, along with other traditional items like sheepskins and tweed blankets, online and at events - for example, the couple recently had a stall at a 1920s fair at a country estate near their home.

Mr Poe said the flat caps, which come in a range of sizes and weights, tend to be popular with men aged over 35, but they are beginning to attract a younger crowd because of the success of the British TV show Peaky Blinders, which is popular in the US.

“That’s the number one Google search that brings people to our website!

“Celebrities are wearing them a lot too - David Beckham put out a range a couple of years ago and people like George Clooney and Idris Elba wear them.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the flat caps have sold all over the US, from Alaska to Texas. The couple have found themselves even sending tweed flat caps to desert states like Arizona.

He added: “We have a large population who love looking back at their European heritage, at their history.”