Our friend from Red Clay Soul takes over this month's Monthly Edit:
Growth. It’s what every company thrives for, as long as there is a positive ROI. Onward Reserve has been playing chess over the last few years, opening new stores all over the Southeast. Founder and CEO TJ Callaway has been very strategic about where, when, and how to manage growth of Onward Reserve, and he believes that he has the recipe for success.
As most of you have seen, Onward Reserve is opening their newest location in the retail center of Georgetown. The DC market seems ripe for an option like Onward Reserve and being less than a block from the intersection of M & Wisconsin, I think they will do just fine. TJ was nice enough to chat about the new store, as well as all things Onward:
What made you decide on Georgetown?
At least on the Brick & Mortar front, Georgetown was one of the main goals I set for our company after we opened our first store in Athens, GA not quite 3 years ago. It took us a couple of years and a lot of work to get here but the right things are worth the wait. It is an absolutely perfect community for us as a brand and happens to be a nationally recognized retail destination. I was taking Uber back to the airport the other day, sweaty from working as a construction manager for 48 hours and looked up from an email to realize I was passing the Lincoln Memorial. I looked over at Jean, our visual merchandising guru, and said, "This is really happening." It gives me goose bumps every trip to realize we have a store in Washington, D.C. How cool is that? We will be among the finest retailers in the world in Georgetown and that makes me so proud of our team.
How has the process for Georgetown been different than the other stores?
No store of ours is the same as another (so long as I have anything to do with it) and accordingly, none of the processes to get them off the ground are the same. I love finding cool old spaces and being able to take odd elements of each and turn them into something special. When you start with a plain vanilla box in a shopping mall it is hard to make something special - when you start with buildings that have been around for 50-100 years like our stores, you have so much character and history to build from.
There is a strange corner in the back of the Georgetown store that sort-of sticks out and creates a visual challenge - so we just decided to make it a cabin with a red tin roof - inside the store. It is going to be awesome. There will be a bourbon bar along an old brick wall in the back and (of course) a pool table. There are huge windows overlooking the canal and we had some giant heart pine tables made by Sons of Sawdust (@sonsofsawdust) in Athens out of reclaimed timber. Everything has a story. It wouldn't be worth it to me if it weren’t authentic. People aren't looking for a place to come buy clothes, they can do that on our website and enjoy free shipping. They are looking for a place to come experience our brand and what we are all about. We owe it to our customers to put on a show and make every store worth the trip.
From a business perspective, Georgetown is a big-time market. It took a ton of planning and effort to execute the deal and the build-out as fast as we were able to pull it together. We are still a small company and we don't have time or money to waste. My hat is off to our amazing team both internally and 3rd party for helping us execute our vision for Georgetown in such a short time.
(Buffing the original floors in our Athens store, around 2AM)
What is the biggest challenge you've faced so far with the Georgetown store?
Nothing worthwhile is easy. There are challenges daily but nothing we can't overcome with scrappy determination. Dealing with building permit offices and that sort of torment is my least favorite thing in the world. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not fond of rules and hate waiting so it’s a pretty tough situation for me. I understand why is all exists, I just wish everyone would have a little more sense of urgency. Sad when it takes 3 months to get a permit to build a store and then just 3 weeks to do all the work. We are done now though!
How has the feedback been from the DC community?
It has been amazing. Our new neighbors in town have been incredibly helpful and accommodating. To be honest, it really blew me away. I was expecting more competitive attitudes from other retailers and restaurants around us, but Georgetown is a very welcoming community. Washington is a good bit north of Atlanta, but Georgetown sure feels like home as far as Southern hospitality goes.
I seem to run into more people in DC that have heard of Onward Reserve than anywhere else. The press we have lined up is fantastic and we are so appreciative of that. I cannot say enough good things about the people in DC (other than the building permit folks of course - but that's the same everywhere).
What are the opening details?
No matter how big we get, some things must stay the same so we don't forget where we started. We all be piled in a U-Haul and drove to DC on Monday June 1st with tools, paint, furniture, taxidermy and all the best merchandise you have come to know and love. That is what makes working with Onward Reserve fun. We get our hands dirty and things (and people) get a little crazy when deadlines approach. We opened on Saturday June 6th while I was still sweeping the sawdust off the floor when the first customers come in like I was in Athens in 2012!
(Arriving in Georgetown last week- UHaul packed full)
We look forward to hosting you at the newest Onward Reserve location:
1063 Wisconsin Avenue
Or as always online at OnwardReserve.com. Call the Georgetown store locally (202) 838.9365 or call headquarters in Atlanta, GA, (404) 618.0751.