Dress like John F. Kennedy. Speak like Ernest Hemingway. Work like Ralph Lauren. And party like Gatsby.
That’s the mantra of Michael Thanner and the MGT & Co. Toggery, which recently launched in Fenwick Island to offer the “Low Country” a taste of the high life when it comes to premier men’s clothing and the latest in luxury fashion.
While the Ralph Lauren lifestyle and fictitious Jay Gatsby may have been a very real inspiration for Thanner and his new experience-centered men’s boutique, catering to weddings in West Egg isn’t the only focus at MGT & Co.
Whether it’s picking up a dress shirt from Mizzen+Maine for dinner at Just Hooked right next door or a pair of swim trunks from Rhythm for trying to hook dinner at the drive-on beach across the street, the Toggery aims to keep their wide-range of customers covered, literally, with everything from headwear to footwear.
“We’ve got everything you could need from head to toe — there’s something for everyone,,” Thanner said. “It’s classic, it’s American and it’s simple, but at the same time, it’s very unique.”
It was through his various travels that Thanner formed the concept behind what’s become an eclectic selection of contemporary classics at MGT & Co.
But while much of the inspiration stemmed from visits to similarly-themed shops along King Street in Charleston, S.C., living in Manhattan after graduating from college and trekking across the trend-setting cities of Europe, where he spent a semester in the South of France at the Institute of America University, it wasn’t until his most recent trip that the augury for the Toggery made itself known.
au·gu·ry (noun, a sign of what will happen in the future; an omen)
Always the family business, where most kids grew up on cookies and milk, the Baltimore native now calling Sussex County home grew up on trade shows and retail.
While he had long since decided that a typical desk job wasn’t for him, all doubts were put to rest during a particularly impactful visit to London over the holidays this past winter.
“I was in and out of all these stores while I was away, and I was just very inspired by them. It was more about the feel and the atmosphere — the customer service, the friendliness and just enjoying the experience,” Thanner recalled. “That’s when I decided that, when I got home, this is what I was going to do.”
Originally searching out locations throughout Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, he’d soon find a home for MGT & Co. right in his own back yard, when the location next to Just Hooked became available.
Fully realizing a need in the area, Thanner said he knew that it was the opportunity he’d been waiting for.
“It all came full circle,” he said. “It was a perfect location, because there was nothing like this here. My whole thing was I wanted fill a void, but at the same time carry brands that you won’t find at the outlets or other stores in the area. So far, it’s been great — we’ve been very well-received.”
“They provide a higher-end men’s clothing option, so it’s definitely unique to the area,” added area homeowner Neal Brown, who recently added some MGT threads to his wardrobe after his daughters stumbled upon the store just in time for Father’s Day. “Don’t get me wrong — I like wearing board shorts and flip-flops, but when I need something for date-night, they’ve got some stuff that you can’t find at the surf shops.”
Carrying lines from Smathers & Branson, Strongbolt, Castaway and Barber, and Hari Mari sandals, just to name a few, MGT & Co. also carries an array of American-made accessories — including watches, wallets, hats, belts and plenty more.
Soon, they’ll add an on-site tailor for formalwear fittings, to cater to weddings, proms and homecomings, and after attending trade shows in New York City later this month, will continue to keep up with seasonal fashion trends.
But aside from a reason not to brave summer traffic to the outlets of Rehoboth or West Ocean City, it’s the causerie at the Toggery that Thanner said set MGT & Co. apart most.
cau·se·rie (noun, light informal conversation for social occasions)
It starts at the door, where the official MGT & Co. greeter and mascot — a friendly golden retriever named Gracie — waits eagerly to welcome guests.
Then it continues throughout the shop, where it may not quite be a Gatsby party, but where, from the antique classical piano and land-and-sea inspired ambiance to offering up both helpful expertise and refreshments, everything about the MGT & Co. experience is designed with the customer in mind.
“The look of the store was a huge part for me as well. Walking in, it’s just an old-school feeling — I wanted it to be relaxed and welcoming,” Thanner explained.
“You can come in, have a drink, catch up, go next door to Just Hooked and come back, or we’ll have food brought over for you. It’s more about just being comfortable and enjoying the experience. We’re not going to push you into something. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. We want you to find something that you’re going to like.”
“The store itself is very inviting, and the interior of it is really cool also. We were helped out by Michael himself — and his dog, of course,” Brown added of the experience. “He’s definitely got a nice eye for higher-end men’s apparel.”
Just as Thanner prides MGT & Co. on being able to cultivate a friendly atmosphere, it was the help of his friends that the atmosphere cultivated around — with the camaraderie at the Toggery making it all possible.
ca·ma·ra·de·rie (noun, mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together)
From renovating the showroom to programming the computer systems, it took a village, between family, friends and the guidance from established area entrepreneurs, such as Steve Hagen of the Off the Hook Restaurant Group, before MGT & Co. was ready to open its doors.
“Everyone had something unique that they brought to the table to help out and was very much appreciated,” said Thanner.
“I could not have gotten this store open without the support of all of my friends, my family — Steve Hagen, who helped me out a lot, even just by seeing my vision and believing in it — and everyone else who contributed. It was not done single-handedly. It really did take a team.”
With what was once a dream now fully realized and enjoying early success, Thanner said that, while he may appreciate his time spent traveling to big cities, New York and London will always be there to visit, but the small-town vibe in Fenwick will always be where he calls home.
“That’s the kind of thing that kept me here. What I like about Fenwick is that everyone helps each other — it’s like a synergy,” he said.
“If Just Hooked runs out of straws, they can go over to Warren’s and get straws. If I need something, I can go down to Pottery Place and they’ll help me out. You see familiar faces, and everyone works together in unity. It truly is a small-town vibe and that feeling of being home. People just want to help each other out. Now, MGT & Co. is a part of that, too.”
tog·ger·y (noun, a clothing store)
As for the MGT & Co. mantra, they’re set to prove that you don’t have to be the president to dress like JFK, win the Pulitzer to speak like Hemingway, become an international fashion mogul to work like Ralph Lauren or get the green light to party like Gatsby — but even still, the right clothes can help.
“I definitely think Gatsby would shop here. I think [Ralph Lauren] would probably pop in, too,” said Thanner with a laugh. “If you look good, you feel good. It’s the way you carry yourself — the air of confidence. It’s not about the brand — it’s about the lifestyle.”
MGT & Co. Toggery is located at 1500 Coastal Highway, #2, in Fenwick Island, next to Just Hooked in the Sunshine Plaza Shopping Center.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or later seven days a week and will remain open through the off-season. For more information, call the shop at (302) 581-0441 or check out MGT & Co. on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mgtandcompany or on Instagram (@mgt_co_).