Ellie LaVeer Stager runs an old fashioned cottage business known as 'The Cordial Churchman' out of a room in her home, where she lives with her husband and children, and that business is bow ties. Not long ago, she sent An Affordable Wardrobe four bow ties for review, two for Winter and two for Summer. I was hooked immediately. For a fraction of the cost of many well regarded brands, Ellie offers quality hand made bow ties of a level of quality consistent with her more expensive counterparts. Bravo!
Recently, I had a chance to ask her a few questions about her products and her business:
What first got you interested in making bow ties?
In June of 2009 I was making my son a jumper out of seersucker. I was a beginner at sewing, but I really wanted to learn how to make new things. When I had some leftover fabric my husband said "Make me a seersucker suit!" Obviously, that wasn't going to happen, so he asked me to make him a bow tie instead. About 2 hours later he had his very own wonky looking hand made seersucker bow tie. He posted it on Twitter and on AskAndy.com's trad fashion forum and within a week, about 30 people were asking if I'd make them one. So that's how it all started.
Whom do you find is your customer base?
I make bow ties for the 15 year old young man across the street and 70 year old gentleman in the UK and everything in between. I've even had quite a few wedding parties that have had me make bow ties for them.
You offer bow ties for sale as well as the option of converting old neck ties into bow ties. Which do you do more?
I mostly sell the ties out of the fabrics that I have listed on my website. But what happens is the people who send me ties to convert get hooked on converted bow ties-so I have a lot of repeat business. There are some gentlemen who have asked me to convert over 20 of their neckties into bow ties.
At $26 for most of your ties, you manage to offer a tie, in my opinion, of a quality on par with any brand name producer, for half the money. What are your thoughts on that?
Since I am not selling my bow ties to men's stores and I'm selling directly to customers, I can make it so much more affordable for them. I think that people like that they can design their own bow tie to fit their style and even size.
What's new in the future for The Cordial Churchman?
One of the things I'm working on is tuxedo bow ties. These would be custom fitted for the customer who orders them. So if you have a size 16 neck, that's the size I make. No sliders or hooks. This way there is no visible hardware at the back of your neck.It is a very specialized item, bit I have enough people ask me about it that I figure there must be a need.Since I'm able to work directly with customers, they tell me what they like and I make it. Usually there are more people out there who like the same thing. That's really what keeps the Cordial Churchman working so well. Also, in the Fall I will reintroduce my patch wool scarf with some other wool scarf options.
Any closing thoughts?
I love my job! The type of men who wear bow ties are almost always cordial gentlemen who pay attention to detail.I try to go the extra mile and remind them that a real person is making their ties with care. I've received thank-you cards in the mail and nearly every day someone emails me to let me know how much they love the bow tie that I made them. It thrills me to know that I'm able to make something they appreciate so much. After making a thousand bow ties, I still enjoy it. Ellie and I have collaborated on a bow tie to be called the "Giuseppe"...fashioned from recycled pants in Nantucket Red...very Massachusetts, very Giuseppe. Ellie's bow ties are available direct at The Cordial Churchman, or you can find them at the Affordable Wardrobe booth at the Top Shelf Flea Market this Sunday.