by Alex DeGroff
In a window above downtown, a 1930’s industrial Singer Sewing Machine is running. Piles of fabric with the outline of neckties lay ready to be cut. On a desk sits bowties being prepped for shipment to Paris and Belgium. Surprisingly, this isn’t a scene from Fifth Avenue a century ago, but instead Broad Street Grove City last Tuesday, and the tie-maker is a 20-something millennial.
Micah List has been hand-making ties in Grove City for nearly 4 years. His business, The Neck and Tie Co, is not making your dad’s ties. One of his best sellers is a tie adorned with octopus. Another big trend as of late, florals. “I was not fashionable in college at all, but I had lots of ties. They were all 4 or 5 inches wide. I wanted something sleeker. So I started watching Youtube tutorials and that’s how it started.”
His 1930’s Singer Sewing Machine was a Craigslist find with a storied past. “It was first owned by the personal tailors of the men who owned Firestone Tire Company. It was then owned by someone who made boat sails. Now it makes ties.” The vintage machine in many ways is the symbol of his entire brand. From Micah’s appearance to the brand of his company, “vintage hipster” comes to mind.
First called the Tok Project, Micah started in New Hampshire making snowboarding hats. While they do not make hats anymore, he and his wife Alicia morphed the business into The Neck and Tie Co. “As we starting getting into the wholesale business, we knew we had to make a more cohesive brand and have a name that made it clear who we are… a menswear company.” The Tok Project started as a business that was bent towards a social aspect with proceeds that went to help end sex trafficking. Today the focus is on multiple giving projects including sex trafficking, education in Africa, even raising funds for a photographer that was robbed and lost everything. They call them “Giving Projects.”
Micah came to Grove City for college as an entrepreneurial major at GCC. “I found a small niche of creative people in Grove City and knew this was the place to start and grow my business. I’ve fallen in love with Grove City.” But the Neck and Tie Co has already made a name for itself well beyond Grove City. The eclectic fabrics have become popular in several men’s shops across the country, with locations in Vermont and Alaska. “One store in Anchorage even has our ties as one if its flagship products.” Micah’s also excited to be gaining traction in Pittsburgh as well. One new store, the Kinsman Shop, looks to open in June on Butler Street in a neighborhood that the New York Time’s calls the new Design District and countless journalists have dubbed the next Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Portland, Oregon.
Wholesale is just part of the business. Another significant part is custom ties for weddings. “It is the fastest growing part of the business. Custom ties double as the groomsman’s gift as well. People love the idea of it. It’s another place to add a unique touch to your wedding,” says Micah. “We’ve been in several major wedding blogs, and that has actually made the West Coast one of our biggest markets.”