After more than three decades, legendary Canadian hat maker Alex Tilley has put up his company for sale and is ready to try something else.

“Thirty-five years is a long time and I’m 77 – it’s time to try other things,” said Tilley on Thursday in Bracebridge.

Tilley hats and accessories are sold in 18 countries and more than 3,900 stores. But the man who created one of the world’s best-selling hats has always been full of surprises. Back in 1980, Alex just wanted to make a hat that was as beautiful as his sailboat.

Alex wasn’t a hat designer by trade, in fact 35 years ago when he started Tilley hats he didn’t know anything about making hats at all.

“Because I didn’t know anything when I said I want to make a hat that won’t shrink. The guy said ‘all hats shrink’ – I said what if you boiled the material first? He said ‘well I guess it would work.’ And it did and if I’d known about hats I wouldn’t have asked that question.”

Alex says he plans on spending more time with his wife, artist Hilary Clark Cole. Alex helped her create a steel muskox piece on display in a gallery in Bracebridge. Hilary says she’ll have to adjust to having Alex around all the time.

“It probably will because as my mother used to say to my dad when he retired, I married you for better or worse but not for lunch.”

Alex will devote much more time volunteering at the hospital and for the Canadian Cancer Society. And in a few days he’ll go with other fellow Rotarians to Cambodia on a humanitarian mission.