In just over 900 square feet in Warehouse Row, Onward Reserve has opened a "pop-up" shop that will serve as the retailer’s fourth location. They will be open through the end of January. They also have locations in Charlotte and Atlanta, as well as their original location in Athens, Georgia.
I had a chance to meet and speak with co-founder and CEO TJ Callaway about Onward Reserve, their new location, and some of their unique products and offerings. Callaway is a former investment banker who ventured into the retail world.
"The main reason I left banking is that I had an entrepreneurial itch that needed to be scratched," Callaway said. "The menswear industry, I felt, was ready for a change, and the timing worked out just right for me. It has been an incredibly challenging but fun experience learning the business. It turns out I have a knack for it, but that was just luck I guess."
I walked in and was immediately greeted with an offering of a cool beverage and a large plate of what looked like fried okra and some sort of cheese dipping sauce. I’m going back to find out just what that stuff was. I did manage to pick up a mini salted caramel MoonPie, which tasted like a little pancake sandwich.
Onward Reserve specializes in men’s casual clothes, lifestyle products and uniquely Southern gifts. Their focus on handmade, made-in-the-USA products fits perfectly in with the other small boutiques found in Warehouse Row.
Having a small store does have its drawbacks; the breadth of products they offer is not represented by their shop offerings. If there is a size, style or brand not in stock, there is a computer available to place your order on the spot, offering free shipping to do so.
Walking in, I noticed a large collection of Onward Reserve house brand T-shirts. Various American and Southern designs fit right in with their attitude and product lines. All of Onward Reserve’s branded tees are garment dyed. Garment dying allows for the finished shirt to be dyed rather than using dyed fabric; this process can eliminate shrinking and makes for a broken-in softness on the first wear. I noticed two rows of Mountain Khakis, as well as some great all-cotton button-downs. Their house brand button-downs are more of a full cut, but a slimmer fit is available in the Cotton Brothers line. These were some of the best-feeling shirts in the place—seriously, go touch these. As the fall season approaches, their merchandise will be constantly rotating. You should see new products here and there each time you visit.
A couple of things that really stood out were the watch case and the sunglasses on a glass display case. Shinola watches are made entirely in the USA (Detroit). Most made-in-the-USA watches have foreign guts and are assembled here; these are made by Americans every step of the way. The bands are Horween leather, and they look amazing.
Sunglasses fit into the "you get what you pay for" category. The Krewe Du Optic brand is made in New Orleans. Their style is reminiscent of the classic Italian brand Persol but available for less than half the price. These shades are simple, classic, and have a hefty feel and construction.
Onward Reserve has one of the best sections for unique men’s gifts and accessories. Their collection of solid cologne, needlepoint flasks, candles, collegiate belts, cufflinks, bar accessories, ties and bowties should satisfy your gift needs for any man in your life. Even the man who has everything needs a pair of 400-thread-count cotton lounge pants from Royal Highnies.
Onward Reserve’s pop-up shop exhibits everything that’s great about the current menswear and lifestyle industry. Specialty products, made in the USA and of the highest quality, are showcased in a vibrant downtown setting.
Alan Baird writes about men's style and occasionally fashion. He thinks fashion is temporary, while style is forever. His personal style is classic, preppy and contemporary. If there are trends you like or if you want to argue about the utility of cargo shorts, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.