Most successful entrepreneurs, especially if they create consumer products, seek to identify and fill needs – in some cases, needs that they themselves have experienced.
This was the case with Radcliff Menge, a resident of Mountain Brook.
Menge enjoys the outdoors and grew up hunting and fishing with his grandfather in the Tensaw Delta of the Tombigbee River in southern Alabama.
But he also earned a law degree from Washington & Lee University in 2008 and went to work as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in New York City.
And he’s spent years researching a classic waxed canvas hunting jacket tough enough for the outdoors but pretty enough to wear around town.
Menge couldn’t find it, so he designed and produced his own Tensaw jacket in 2015, while practicing law in the Big Apple.
The idea was to have a fully functional jacket in the field – for example, sturdy and comfortable and allowing a full range of motion.
At the same time, the jacket is designed to “pair well with your business casual or formal attire during the week, something you can pull on over a suit jacket,” he said.
Menge and his wife, Mary Menge, found a woman on the internet who could make a sample of the jacket, including a pattern.
âWe thought it might have some commercial appeal,â Radcliff Menge said.
âPeople liked it,â he says.
The Menges then launched their own brand Tom Beckbe.
They have gradually added many more products including a full line of field gear, bags, fleece overlays, shirts and hats, and have long had a strong presence in online retail.
In August, the couple had a smooth opening for their flagship Tom Beckbe retail store in Mountain Brook Village in Canterbury and Culver Roads.
The inauguration of the 1,300 square foot space took place on September 18.
Mountain Brook was a good location for Tom Beckbe’s flagship store, the couple said.
On the one hand, they have a short ride.
âWe live in Crestline so it’s convenient for us,â Radcliff Menge.
Tom Beckbe also fits in well with the ambiance and ambiance of Mountain Brook Village.
âWe felt like the timeless and quaint communityâ¦ really fits our brand,â said Mary Menge. âWe have good neighbors.
They also gained a lot of customers in the city.
âA critical part of our customer base is in Mountain Brook, which has supported the company since its inception,â Radcliff Menge. âWe wanted to put it in the community where we live and that supported us.â
The store has an engraving workshop and accessories for tailor-made hunting vests.
The store features joinery from Julian & Sons carpenters, including the “Loading Dock”, a bar at the back of the store that has private whiskey racks.
Products for sale include Tom Beckbe’s premium outerwear, fleeces, shirts and accessories.
There are leather shooting gloves, sports vests, country hats and fisherman shirts, as well as a women’s Tensaw jacket.
Radcliff Menge is from Winchester, Virginia, and Mary Menge is from Brewton.
They met in 2005 while studying at Washington & Lee, where they both earned their law degrees.
They married in 2009 and both practiced law.
As for the Tensaw jacket brand, the couple “wanted to root it in Alabama,” said Mary Menge.
On a colonial-era map of Alabama, they saw a French spelling of the Tombigbee River, “Tombeckbe”.
This allowed them to summon the area where Radcliff Menge went hunting and fishing while growing up, and the name of the river became the name of the brand’s fictitious namesake.
âSince we were designing men’s clothing, we liked the idea of ââusing someone’s name, so we created that character, if you will,â she said.
âTom Beckbe is a figment of our collective imagination,â said Radcliff Menge.
“He’s not a real person, but I think Radcliff’s great-grandfather and grandfather were big fans of the outdoors and inspired the brand and the lifestyle,” Mary said. Menge.
The most popular items at Tom Beckbe include the Tensaw jacket, fleece clothing, and vests.
Tom Beckbe also offers a wide variety of gear bags and travel bags that can be personalized in the store.
This fall, the Menges also have a new collection of shirts called Wrights Twill, Radcliff Menge said.
When asked how the couple choose or develop new products, Radcliff Menge said “there are two categories – the things we like and the things people ask of us.”
In the latter category is a new strap hunting vest from Tom Beckbe for fall.
âIt’s a simple product, but the design is just clean enough and intuitive enough,â said Radcliff Menge. âPeople have been asking us for this for years. “
The brand also designs and manufactures exclusive products with Southern artisans such as carpenter Alabama Sawyer, glass craftsman Terrane Glass and cutler Heartwood Forge.
There are collaborations with Wisconsin outdoor shoe brand Russell Moccasin Co. and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. of South Carolina.
The store carries an assortment of rare and limited-edition collectible sporting goods, including hand-carved artwork, books and waterfowl decoys.
The Menges have also added a shoe polish service that will only be available in-store.
This fall, the store is hosting a series of indoor and outdoor events with other manufacturers and sports brands.
The majority of the company’s sales come from the online operation, Radcliff Menge said.
âBut the store is getting its money’s worth,â he said.
The couple are happy with the response from customers since the flagship store opened.
âIt was definitely a good mix of people who already knew us and were very excited to come and see the fall novelties and people who were new to the brand who saw something in the window that attracted their attention or saw some of the press locally, âsaid Mary Menge.
Running a business inevitably brings challenges, but the Menges say they enjoy Tom Beckbe’s management overall.
âFor Mary and I, moving from practicing law to being able to be creative is fun and truly rewarding to be able to fill a niche and meet new people who share our interests,â said Radcliff Menge.
âIt’s fun – not every day is fun, but it’s creative and vibrant and no day is the same,â said Mary Menge.
The Menges have no plans for additional retail stores at this point.
âWe are focusing on the laser to make this a success right now,â Radcliff Menge said.