Two summers ago, following a July 4th celebratory evening out at various Rehoboth Beach, Del., eateries and drinkeries, gay entrepreneur Michael Gabriel Thanner found himself a bit sozzled and languishing late-night with a long-time female friend on the stoop in front of 39 Baltimore Avenue, a block from the residential town and resort destination boardwalk.
“I’m going to have this store some day,” the visiting Maryland native declared. The casual comment was emblematic of Thanner’s easygoing manner and light-hearted, engaging disposition, as energetically adventurous as it is engagingly confident.
Early in October, Thanner’s ambitious assertion became an abstemious reality with the opening of M.G.T. & Co. Mens Toggery Shop on the high-profile street.
The prominent commercial spot is anchored by surrounding and nearby retail businesses and restaurant venues. The former residential home and prior commercial storefront is adjacent to local landmarks the Blue Moon restaurant-bar and the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center.
This fall, alongside his one-year-old golden retriever and in-store companion Gracie, Thanner launched his men’s specialty clothing shop on his 27th birthday. The Oct. 10 birthday commencement of the retail enterprise is also symbolized in the easy-to-remember mnemonic time he opens the door each day, at 10:10 a.m. “It also ensures that I’m never late,” Thanner jokes.
The shop is currently open seven days a week until 7 p.m., to both acquaint local residents and off-season visitors with Rehoboth’s newest addition to community enterprise and accommodate holiday shopping.
The free-spirited nature of new-proprietor Thanner is captured in the use of the informal, humorous, and British term “toggery” in the shop’s branding. A more casual expression for “haberdashery,” this off-kilter marquee nomenclature is a fitting reflection of the owner’s personality.
The tagline additionally serves to convey the “British-inspired flavor of the shop’s offerings,” explains Thannery, noting that European labels from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other international locales are also featured alongside American brands. “I carry lines with which people may not be familiar,” he says, “but I strive to always value quality over quantity” in curating the selection of items that will seasonally evolve.
“I specialize in providing an ‘old school’ foundation with a modern and youthful perspective,” says Thanner, “in a range of sizing and with something for everyone. The shop has a casual and personable environment,” he notes, describing the warm interior and attractive displays featuring a full range of merchandise, including everything from resort wear to blazers, scarves, boots, plush cashmere and more.
“I’m selling a lifestyle, not just an item or two,” asserts Thanner, “quality personal items are the foundation of a gentleman.”
Unique and distinctive labels include American purveyors Mizzen+Main dress shirts, Strong Boalt, Castaway, needlepoint belts and wallets from Smather and Branson, F.H. Wadsworth belts, handmade leather loafers by Jay Butler, Southern Proper, as well as Barbour from the United Kingdom, Hommard cashmere from the Netherlands, Armor Lux of France, Seaward and Stearn ties from the U.K., and New Zealand’s Rodd & Gunn.
Frequent solo travels when young and studying at Aix-en-Provence in the south of France influenced Thanner’s appreciation for European style and “knowing how to dress” as a practical part of one’s life. “You never know whom you’re going to run into, or where you’ll end up,” explains Thanner.
“If you look good, you feel good, and can have either $2 or $2 million in your pocket, no one would ever know.” Thanner credits his supportive parents, who encouraged their only child to travel and explore different cultures, for such insights. Growing up around his mother’s multiple retail shops specializing in gifts, accessories and home furnishings, also served as inspiration.
Whether domestic or international, the shop’s clothing is “not tailored,” notes Thanner, “it’s more traditional but with a twist.” While representing the higher-end of the marketplace, pricing is consumer accessible with a range of price points. Thanner characterizes the shop’s focus as “America’s Ralph Lauren meets London’s Savile Row.”
Hand-produced and bench-made products dominate, the result of a distinctly personal process of acquisition. “I was always well-dressed as a kid, originating with my own inspiration,” explains Thanner. Noted for his distinctive sense of style and attention to detail from a young age “led to requests to assist others with their personal shopping,” he recalls.
It was personal familiarity with noteworthy attire that forged the path for stocking his store. “I simply opened my own closet,” Thanner says, “and began cold-calling companies among the labels in my collection, asking to speak with a wholesale representative.”
“I knew early on that I could never have a standard 9-to-5 job,” Thanner admits, “I simply don’t have the attention span for it. Working for myself has always been in my blood, and I always knew I would have a shop of my own.”
“None of my friends were surprised at all,” says Thanner of his decision to open the shop. “I told several people over dinner one night, and signed a lease two days later. Of course, they think I’m ‘nuts’ for entering storefront retail, but you have to be willing to take risks to achieve success.”
“Opening in retail today is a risk,” acknowledges Thanner, “but you can’t focus on that. You have to jump right in and give it all you’ve got. The market is still there, especially in destination locations like Rehoboth where there is opportunity for specialty commerce.” He credits Murray Archibald, Steve Elkins, and everyone at CAMP Rehoboth for being supportive, and the welcoming attitude from other business owners and local residents.
“I love Rehoboth, the sense of community, the energy, the vibe,” says Thanner, “and the small town charm and progressive environment. It’s a place entering a new era of enterprise, with an influx of new businesses and innovative approaches complementing an existing strong mix of retail.”
Thanner is inviting patrons and the public to an in-store holiday party on Dec. 9 to celebrate the shop’s opening and to “thank the community for their encouragement during the best time of the year to bring people together.”
M.G.T. & Co. Mens Toggery Shop is located in Rehoboth Beach, Del., at 39 Baltimore Ave. The shop is currently open each day of the week from 10:10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more info, visit M.G.T. & Co. on Facebook and Instagram (the shop’s website is in development).