BUCKHEAD BIZ WHIZ TJ CALLAWAY OUTFITS MEN IN SPORTING STYLE AT ONWARD RESERVE
With a dedicated wardrobe for the office, the links, the lake, the lodge and lounging around the house, TJ Callaway is living proof that clothes make the man. As the founding CEO of Onward Reserve, he also happens to be the man who makes the clothes. The 35-year-old Buckhead entrepreneur launched his specialty men’s apparel brand online in 2012. Today, he runs 13 retail locations around the Southeast, along with a booming e-commerce business and wholesale orders. Championing quality craftsmanship, classic styling and field-tested functionality, Onward Reserve carries a signature line of performance polos, pants and button-downs; heavyweights such as Barbour, Yeti and Filson; and a curated selection of accessories ranging from belts and bow ties to wallets and watches. “I think about what I would want to wear in my everyday life—working, hunting, golfing and hanging out with my family and friends,” Callaway says of the lifestyle-inspired attire. “We want to help you look tailored while staying comfortable with versatile pieces that you’ll wear over and over again.” The latest line trumpets the brand’s hometown of Atlanta. Catalog photography shot this spring included stops at the Swan House, Bobby Jones Golf Course, Bones steak house and the BeltLine, with a nod to iconic names such as Habersham, Irby and Mitchell in the design labeling. A former investment banker who “never dreamed in a million years” he’d be in the apparel industry, Callaway is hands on in every aspect of the business.
What sparked Onward Reserve and the motto “Live Authentically”?
The idea actually came to me when I was on a hunting trip in Onward, Mississippi, in my mid-20s. Over 100 years prior, President Theodore Roosevelt also visited Onward for a famous bear hunt, during which he refused to shoot a captive bear—not wanting to have an “inauthentic” hunting experience. Since the idea for Onward Reserve was conceived on that same land, I felt it only fitting that our brand share a name with the famous site, and our logo with the infamous bear, as the story mirrors our desire to “live authentically.” The face of retail has changed dramatically in the past decade.
What keeps your business up and running?
Many people don’t know this, but we actually started online almost 10 years ago. We were one of the first independent menswear stores to launch a truly world-class e-commerce platform, so being ahead of that has been helpful. We love having both an online and brick-and-mortar presence, which enables us to serve customers nationwide while reaching even more people locally with unique, authentic, in-store experiences; you can go in and see the merchandise, touch it, try it on, all in a visually appealing environment.
With college enrollment declining, how important was your BBA degree from UGA in the scheme of things?
Attending UGA has had a huge impact on my career. At the Terry College of Business, I was fortunate to participate in a leadership program that gave me access to great mentors and the ability to study other great businesses. Not directly related to the degree, but Athens has been a huge part of the success of the business. The first Onward Reserve store was in downtown Athens, and it continues to drive a ton of business for us today.
What’s next on the horizon?
We’re continually developing the product line to always offer staples that people love, like performance polos, but also to add new items that they won’t be able to find anywhere else, like this season’s Reserve Label Cashmere Waffle Knit Crew Neck or Crosby Quilted Coat.
What recreational pursuits do you enjoy during your downtime?
I’m a big golfer—although not nearly as good as I’d like to be! I grew up in Thomasville, Georgia, so quail hunting is also a passion of mine. I’m also a dad to two beautiful toddler-age girls, so I spend most of my free time with them and my wife, Catherine.
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Contributing Writer, Simply Buckhead; journalist and graphic designer