What's old is new again. At least, that's what three brothers from Vernon have been counting on since founding a handmade bow tie business in honor of their late grandfather.
The Kenerson boys, Will, 27, Tyler, 24, and Josch, 22, went to college to pursue various interests when they came to a conclusion they didn’t want to work for someone else. They wanted to grow something, just like their grandfather had years before.
The three brothers spoke lovingly of the man they knew as “Grampa.” Bill Kenerson lived in New York until he moved to Middlebury, Vt., and opened Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont in the early 1980s. The senior Kenerson was top of his class at Yale before serving as a captain in the United States Marines.
Bill owned various businesses throughout his life, his grandsons said, but the idea of starting a bow tie business was always in his head. His wife was a seamstress and she worked alongside him, sewing bow ties that he sold in catalogues.
Beau Ties started out in Kenerson’s home and relocated to a shop next to the Cabot Cheese factory when sales were booming.
“He hired retired people who needed to supplement their incomes,” said Will Kenerson. “He had a lot of ladies sewing bow ties and never outsourced out of the community.”
Growing up with stories of their grandfather’s ingenuity and dedication to craft, when it came time to choose a line of work to pursue, it felt obvious to all three. Josch and Tyler were still in college when they approached big brother Will to suggest the idea for The Bow Tie Collective.
“We knew the bow tie revolution was coming,” offered Josch, “so we thought, `why not start a bow tie business in our grandfather’s honor.’”
The Bow Tie Collective, founded in 2014, is growing each month and breathing new life into an old fashion trend. In fact, the brothers partnered with a tux shop on Rt. 94 in Vernon, their hometown, in March 2016 to bring their mostly e-commerce business to a brick-and-mortar shop.
Depending on the material use, color and specialty designs – the brothers work with logos and any other requests – bow ties cost between $25 and $65. The company has a standard collection of 35 patterned bow ties plus all solid colors. In addition to being sold online, the company’s wares can be purchased at the Crystal Springs Resort, Onore Clothing in Sparta and Biltmore Tuxedos in Ridgewood. The brothers also make countless craft show appearances year-round throughout New Jersey. This year to date, The Bow Tie Collective has sold more than 1,200 handmade bow ties.
The Bow Tie Collective offers a special bonus for its customers. Its ties are all self-tie and clip-on, meaning bow tie aficionados can relish the chance to tie their own ties just right, while newbies and younger folk can clip and go.
The brothers can convert a regular tie into a bow tie, just as they can convert anything made of fabric into a one-of-a-kind piece of clothing. In fact, one particular customer had the entrepreneurs make three special bow ties out of her wedding gown fabric. The woman wanted her newborn to have a special tie for his first birthday, high school graduation and wedding day.
The boys started with degrees in business, electronic engineering and environmental sciences … not garment trades. “We taught ourselves how to sew. We created all the templates,” Tyler said. “It was a lot of trial and error. At first, we didn’t even know where to get fabrics from.”
“That’s true,” Josch said laughing. “We completely did it wrong over and over until we figured it out.”
All three Kenerson boys love to wear bow ties, of course. The only thing they may love more is getting to work with each other.
“It doesn’t get better than working with my brothers,” Tyler said. “We relate to each other and while it might be stressful for others to work with partners, we respect each other and can argue respectfully.”
A lot of love goes into each and every bow tie they hand-sew, said Tyler.
“I can speak for all three of us when I say we use to love going to our grandfather’s shop when we were kids,” he said. “We would see the ladies sewing and it inspired us to incorporate the same qualities in our business. He only sold handmade products and he built his business on his own, learning as he went.
“We are doing the same. It’s taking effort, motivation and dedication. But giving back was a big part of our grandfather’s success and that’s what we want for The Bow Tie Collective, too.”