Beau Ties Ltd. continues to grow
MIDDLEBURY — It was in 1993 that the late Bill Kenerson had grown so frustrated in his attempts to find good quality bow ties that he decided to make them himself. So he and his wife, Deborah Venman, set up a room in their home for the production of ties under name “Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont.”
Twenty-one years later, Beau Ties Ltd. has grown from a small cottage industry producing eight different bow ties to a thriving neckwear enterprise in Middlebury’s industrial park where hundreds of bow tie varieties and accessories are carefully crafted and exported, via mail order, to all 50 U.S. states and beyond.
Kenerson and Venman sold the business in 2012 to David Kramer and David Mutter. The new owners have diligently added to the Beau Ties product line, though in a manner that has preserved the company’s homegrown character and commitment to quality, Kramer said during an interview last week.
“We have tried to be good stewards of what (the founders) created,” Kramer said. “We have built on their foundation, and will hopefully take it to the next level.”
They appear to be well on their way. Beau Ties Ltd. has been growing at a double-digit annual clip, in terms of sales, noted Kramer. He declined to discuss revenue numbers or the current specific employee count; it can be a cutthroat world in the tie industry. But the Beau Ties Ltd. website speaks of “a company of dozens of employees,” including designers, seamstresses, marketing, shipping and administrative staff working out of a 6,000-square-foot headquarters.
“We believe we are the largest bow tie company that manufactures in the United States,” Kramer said.
BEAU TIES LTD. employee Susan Henikoff, surrounded by holiday orders, cuts fabric in the company’s Middlebury headquarters last Thursday afternoon. The company, created in 1993 by Deb Venman and the late Bill Kinerson, is growing at a fast pace. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
And the Beau Ties Ltd. catalogue bears that out. Bow tie aficionados can choose from hundreds of models of different shapes, colors and sizes. There are standard varieties and the company will also customize ties for patrons wanting to make a unique statement. They’ll even convert your favorite necktie to a bow tie. Each year, Beau Ties Ltd. rolls out 300 new bow tie varieties.
And it’s not only about the bow ties anymore.
The company has delved into accessories like boutonnieres, pocket squares, cummerbunds, vests, lapel pins, tie bars, money clips, shoelaces, leather belts, suspenders, luggage, wallets, scarves, headbands, baseball caps and tie racks/cases. Many of these accessories can be made in colors and patterns to match the wearer’s favorite bow tie.
“I think we have a unique product; we can really meet the customers’ needs,” Kramer said.
Fueling the company’s business is the fact that bow ties have become more mainstream in the formalwear world, Kramer noted. And this recent transition has been more of a cultural shift than a temporary fad, according to Kramer.
“We have seen a trend of bow ties replacing neckties,” Kramer said. “And we have had a lot of long-term customers.”
It used to be that older men were among the most avid bow-tie wearers.
“The younger demographic has become very interested” in bow ties, Kramer noted.
He credited Beau Ties Ltd. staff for being creative and hardworking. Kramer said the “overwhelming majority” of the company’s employees have been on board for several years.
“We have had great success in finding and growing our talent in Middlebury and Addison County,” Kramer said. “It’s an idyllic place.”
He acknowledged that the company’s success has begun to stretch its current facilities. He would not rule out a building addition in the not-too-distant future.
“We see ourselves remaining in Middlebury,” he stressed.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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