March 12, 2012

Bow Ties and Boutique Business in Phoenix

by: Feliciano Vera


Today’s post is by a new contributing writer to Blooming Rock, Feliciano Vera, an entrepreneur in real estate and finance.

Jim McPherson does not know how to tie a bow tie.  Lingering over the antiqued wood display table at Mercantile, he brushes aside that fact and ushers us closer, in an almost conspiratorial manner.

“Look,” flipping over one of the many bow ties. “This tie was originally made from another that was sold at the Broadway.  And that one over there was a tie from Goldwaters.”

Clutching a purple and white checked sample, my eye is drawn to another bow tie, an abstract cream and red job.  Teleporting me into a personal reverie, Dapper + Dash’s grand opening crowd of well-wishers and hipster sartorialists dissolve into a cross cut of memories.  I am transported back to the not-too-distant past of my childhood, running impatiently through Chris Town and Park Central Mall as my mother shopped.  In a parallel frame, I am distracted at a collegiate black tie fete, thrown for no other reason than to put mileage on our tuxedos.

Aaron Kimberlin likely did not have such juxtaposed scenes in mind when he decided to start Dapper + Dash, his boutique bow-tie enterprise.  Combining a penchant for design with whimsy and story-telling moxie, Kimberlin may not be the first to reimagine a piece of fabric. That he is taking the risk to start his business in downtown Phoenix struck several of us as more than a bit of naïve optimism.  Implicit in the start of the business is the notion that there are more than a handful of men willing to fork over their hard-earned scratch on a bow tie.

In Phoenix.  Arizona.

Not Williamsburg or Abbot Kinney.  Not the Pearl District or Noe Valley.

Downtown Phoenix.

Kimberlin is the latest entrepreneur to draw inspiration from the resurgence of the central city, joining the ranks of Frances and Smeeks’ Georganne Bryant, Bunky Boutique’s Rachel Malloy, and the evening’s hosts at Mercantile, Shauna Thibault and Christophe Kaiser.  Wander through any of their downtown and Central Phoenix establishments and a collective commitment to design becomes clear.  Beyond purveying repurposed and eclectic fashion, their growing numbers – in the middle of the Great Recession no less – paint a vivid portrait of a Phoenix that would be unrecognizable to the suburban interloper versed solely in the dreary monotony of a power center.

Fusing business acumen with creative expression, the growth of these businesses challenge the truism that Phoenix, as a market, can be defined solely by credit tenants trading in fashion-as-commodity, whether Old Navy or Chico’s.  Reclaiming and reusing existing physical spaces within the very heart of the region, their success suggests that Phoenix is home to a growing class not content with the idea that expression can be commoditized.

Their ranks are small, but they are as brave as their clientele.  After all, it takes a brave and contrarian man to sport a bow tie.  Especially in a state whose official neckwear is the Bola Tie.

I bought two ties.  Jim bought one.  That makes at least two of us.  I have no doubt there are many more.

Photo credit: At the Dapper + Dash kick-off event. Photo by jason + anna photography.

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7 Responses

  1. Jim McPherson says:

    Oh Feliciano, you’re killin’ me. You are correct that I did not know how to tie a bowtie that night. Vaguely I remember my dad wearing them way back when. There’s a now vintage photo lurking in some family album of my two sisters and me on the front door stoop wearing our Easter Sunday best… me in some rather colorful checked coat and a clip-on. My high school prom and usher at several weddings and that’s it.

    Until Aaron’s Dapper+Dash grand opening…

    I knew full well that I would make a purchase at Mercantile that Saturday night. After all, supporting local is not just about coffee shops, restaurants, and art to hang on your wall. It’s about exploring and finding interesting and usable things that make the (economic) world go around. And supporting friends and family is important to me.

    I took it as a challenge to figure out how to tie said bowtie. It’s not rocket science after all. Well, nearly… It was 30-ish minutes in front of the mirror peering at the “how to” card inserted into the nifty cardboard container, watching a YouTube video of a clothier in South Carolina, and trying, trying, trying.

    I FINALLY figured it out, thought I did okay, ventured out in public, and posted a cryptic Facebook post: “is wearing a bowtie” (which elicited way more replies than usual). Later, running into Aaron at a local coffee shop, I was duly informed that I “did it backwards.” Huh, how did THAT happen?

    So a couple days later it was back to the drawing board (mirror)… but it was an easy fix to do. The first folding and the opening in the back are key (okay, I would need to demonstrate that for you). But now I’ve got the process down pat.

    I’m proud of Aaron for sticking his neck out – literally and figuratively – in his new business venture… in this city and in this economic climate. And I’m happy I’ve learned a new skill.

    Oh, and Feliciano, I purchased two! After all, the second was half off… and I’m Scottish (frugal) you know…

  2. Star Padilla says:

    Love the product and marketing for Dapper + Dash. Exciting to see a new LOCAL startup raising awareness and grabbing so much support already. Great things to come from Aaron Kimberlain with the growth of this establishment!

  3. Feliciano Vera says:


    You knew I had to tell that story!

    Of course, now I will be forced to admit that I didn’t learn how to properly tie my shoes until I was twenty-two.

    But let’s just leave that between the two of us.

  4. olllllo says:

    Hmmm. I can brew in a bowtie.

    • Feliciano Vera says:


      Bow tie, trilby and hops. I can see it clearly. Now when are we going to taste a Belgian brewed in Phoenix?

  5. Dorina Bustamante says:

    FINALLY, the gentlemen of Downtown Phoenix are setting a worthy fashion trend … Take note all you fellas of Arcadia, Scottsdale & Tempe – time to step it up!

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