It’s pretty clear that I love Charleston and all of the local shops and entrepreneurs in the area. In the spirit of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, I wanted to spotlight 2 local companies that have created their own beautiful, handmade products. Since women tend to think ahead, we’ll start with some gift ideas for men 😉
One of Hunter’s co-workers wore a Birdseye bow tie to their holiday party, and Hunter loved it, so I reached out to the owners to talk to them over beers at Hometeam and learn a little more about their unique, wooden bow ties!
What’s your company’s story?
Birdseye Bow ties is a 2 man operation run by Josh Zalabak and Jon Ivey. We are both passionate woodworkers who use any free time we have to build an array of furniture, frames, and of course, bow ties. My (Josh’s) wedding in October of 2016 prompted us to look into wooden bow ties as an representation of my interests, as well a cool and unique groomsmen gift.
What Jon and I found upon searching for wooden bow ties though, were numerous examples of bow ties that were flat pieces of wood, cut to shape, and then wrapped with a fabric knot. We thought these bow ties looked odd, as they had no dimension to them, and the knot was a different material than the rest of the tie. Unsatisfied, we decided to see what we could come up with ourselves. Luckily for us, we started about 10 months before the wedding, allowing us to work out A LOT of kinks. The response to the ties from everyone we showed them to was overwhelmingly positive, so we decided to run with it, and here we are!
How did you come up with the idea of wooden bow ties?
The idea of wooden bow ties was originally conceptualized by the desire to have the woodworker side of me (Josh) represented in my wedding. Little did we know, there were already a number of business out there who had thought of this! However, being the impossible-to-please woodworkers that we are, we had to find a way to make a better looking wooden bow tie!
We think we’ve been able to accomplish just that, by steaming and bending the wood. That allows us to create the loops that a tied, fabric bow tie would have, as well as a knot that is actually the same material as the rest of the tie. Both of those conditions were very important to us when we started making the ties. We used Jon’s experience with steaming and bending wood, that he gained working with a mentor of his, a world renowned canoe builder.
How many prototypes did you make before coming up with your process today?
It took us roughly 6 months to get to the process we currently use. In the course of that 6 months, we probably made and trashed over 100 bow ties as we determined the size and shape we liked, as well as the thickness of the wood, and the types of wood that would work best for us.
When was Birdseye Bowties officially launched?
We began making the bow ties in January/February of 2016. Our first opportunity to sell the ties came in late November however, at the West Ashley Holiday Farmer’s Market. After that, we had a booth at the Holiday Market in downtown Charleston throughout December 2016.
Which bowtie is your favorite?
We love them all! And we often find ourselves telling people that our favorite is the one they’re looking at. Since each piece of wood is so different from the next, they all have unique qualities to love. BUT if we had to choose…
Josh: Walnut Butterfly, because walnut is such a beautiful, dark wood, and the Butterfly is the classic Bow tie shape.
Jon: Birdseye Maple Batwing. A narrower bow tie style with our namesake wood, Birdseye Maple.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Charleston?
Josh: My wife and I love Leon’s Oyster Shop on Upper King st. All of their food is amazing, but especially the chargrilled oysters and the fried chicken!
Jon: Pane E Vino. Great Italian food!
How would you spend a day off?
Josh: These seem few and far between, but in the summer we can be found at the beach every opportunity we get! If it’s a day off alone though, chances are I’ll be doing some kind of woodworking.
Jon: Spending time with his wife and twin, 2 ½ yr old daughters!