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Meet the Owner: TJ Callaway of Onward Reserve

Oct 16 2012

by Cheri Leavy

By Janell Niederitter for guide2athens

Onward Reserve, located at 146 E. Clayton Street, is bringing more than just clothing to their downtown Athens store. Find out all they offer, the story behind Onward Reserve, more on TJ Callaway, CEO and fellow bulldawg, and the overnight decision to sign their lease “on the best block of the best street in the best college town in the country.” Go Dawgs!

How did you get started in the clothing industry?

I am not sure I am even in the clothing industry now. We cater to the needs of a certain lifestyle. Our customers enjoy quality as well as style and are more casual than average; however, very put together. When it comes to clothing, we are mainly sportswear and have all you could want to look at, but we are not limited to just clothing. We have lots of very cool gift, home and bar items as well as things like YETI Coolers and Big Green Eggs.

The other reason I sometimes think that question is funny is that I was a finance major at UGA and then was an investment banking Associate in Atlanta for 4 years until moving to Athens to start Fivemile.com. I should add that I did municipal bond work and I can assure you there is no fashion in municipal bonds or the people that deal with them, which is fine. I have no formal training or background in the industry and I think that has been a big advantage to us. I did not know how it was supposed to be done, so I set out to make it work the way I thought made sense. We are looking at things from a fresh perspective and it is very exciting.

How did Onward Reserve come to fruition?

Fivemile.com came first and it was because we liked the business model of Gilt Groupe and Rulala and the like…but they don’t carry anything I wear. We brought the flash sale site to our group of friends and their tastes in clothing and lifestyle goods. OnwardReserve.com and our new Onward Reserve store downtown are just natural next steps for us. Athens didn’t have anything like us, and I think its a perfect home for our store.

Why did you decide on downtown Athens,GA for your new store location?

We didn’t decide. Actually, we had no intentions of doing another store in Athens. I had not been downtown in quite a while as I had been busy traveling and working at our warehouse when I was in town. I happened to go downtown to meet a friend for a drink one evening and there the store was with a sign in the window that was just coming on the market. It was all I could do not to call the number that night at midnight. I was able to hold off until the next day though and within the week we had a lease. It is on the best block of the best street in the best college town in the country…how could we not do it?

What sets Onward Reserve apart from other apparel stores?

We have an online presence which allows us to carry vastly greater amounts of inventory than most stores. You rarely see another men’s store that carries every single flask, wallet, keychain, cufflink and cummerbund set that Smathers & Branson makes, in addition to 80% of the belts in full size runs. We also have every size YETI Cooler in production…and the biggest one has to come by frieght it is so big. It will not fit on a FedEx delivery truck. In addition to the great selection of merchandise: a 16 foot Nile Crocodile rug, a zebra rug, a 2,000+ pound Cape Buffalo that is close to a world record, 6 gorgeous deer antler chandeliers (100% authentic) and one gigantic elk antler chandelier, 12 bird mounts, 4 deer mounts, a bar, a pool table, a wildebeest from Tanzania, a Sable from Zimbabwe…you get the point. Some people described our old location as “the ultimate man cave” and that store didn’t come close to this one. The character that the walls of this old building downtown add to our look is perfect. As they say, I just wish they could talk.

What are some fall essentials available from Onward Reserve?

In general, if you don’t have a Barbour jacket, you need to get on that before fall gets into full swing. I have had mine for over 15 years. It is the best jacket in the world and will last more than your lifetime if you can keep up with it. If it is good enough for Prince William and the Queen, its good enough for me!

For the Guys: Gameday pants, boots, sanles, Persols, Ray-Ban, Costa etc etc. T-Shirts out the ying-yang and every fratty baseball cap you have ever seen and some we came up with.

For the ladies: We are the only place in Athens to get Hunter Boots which make the colorful rain boots known as Hunter Wellington’s (or Welly’s). We also carry both ladies and men’s Barbour. Those are the two must have items for girls. Everything else is a man’s world in here…but we have awesome gifts and some higher end UGA themed things as well. .

College football season is right around the corner. What are you most looking forward to?

Obviously football in general is what we are looking forward to but aside from that, we are looking forward to having the store open and getting to see friends that visit Athens for games.

Describe your personal style in three words:

Rustic but Polished

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Cheri Leavy View More Blog Posts from this Author

Cheri Leavy is a connector, cheerleader and marketing consultant for fellow entrepreneurs.
Building rapport and strengthening a sense of community:
• A community of female entrepreneurs through the The Southern Coterie and The Southern C Summit
• The faces and places of Athens that make our city so vibrant through guide2athens
• A community of devoted football fans through Bulldawg Illustrated
- Contributing editor to Coastal Illustrated, Executive Board Member of the UGA Alumni Association

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