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Brothers tie one on, so to speak

Their Vineyard Vines nautical-themed ties have been a hit with boaters in the boardroom

Their Vineyard Vines nautical-themed ties have been a hit with boaters in the boardroom

Tired of working in Manhattan and commuting by train, brothers Shep and Ian Murray decided they’d rather be boating.

The Connecticut natives quit their jobs in marketing and public relations, pooled their resources, and launched a new business selling nautical-themed neckties through shops near their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. They hoped the fledgling business would allow ample time for boating around the island on their 1970 19-foot Aquasport, which they had purchased years earlier with money they earned waxing cars and doing other odd jobs. “If all else failed, we’d still have a boat,” says 29-year-old Ian.

“People thought they were crazy,” says Vineyard Vines spokeswoman Lindsey Worster, who joined the company this past summer. They sold out of their first 800 ties within a week, and there was demand for more, she says.

Six years later, Vineyard Vines is a thriving business with more than 40 employees in its Greenwich, Conn., headquarters.

Vineyard Vines ties are sold in more than 500 stores nationwide, including quality men’s shops and department stores such as Bloomingdales. Celebrities who wear Vineyard Vines ties include Sen. John Kerry and former President George H.W. Bush. The ties, which sell for $65, are made from spun silk and feature double linings for easier knotting. In fact, the company this year launched a line of political ties: donkeys and stars for Democrats, elephants and stars for Republicans.

The company this year also launched a line of men’s clothing — polo shirts, belts and shorts — and next year they say they plan to introduce a line of women’s clothing.

As their business thrives, so have the Murray brothers’ boating experiences. They now share a 1980 Mako 21, a 2002 SeaCraft 23 and a 2002 Contender 31. The boats are kept in Connecticut, Martha’s Vineyard or Florida, where they spend a month every winter. They still spend much of their free time boating and fishing. Since launching the business, the brothers say, their love of fishing and boating are keys to their success.

“Our customer base really enjoys the water,” says Shep, 33. The company frequently receives letters and e-mail from satisfied customers, and invariably the notes include comments about being on the water.

The ties feature bright colors and such images as sailboats, lighthouses and lobsters. The brothers say they are great conversation starters and allow customers to express their love of the water while sitting in the boardroom. Other whimsical prints include butterflies, palm trees and fish hooks.

“We design clothes for us, what we like to wear,” says Ian. The products are not just stylish, they are functional and sturdy enough for working on a boat, he says.

Both former junior sailors, the Murrays are active in the boating community. They are members of the Riverside (Conn.) Yacht Club and the Chappaquiddick Yacht Club in Edgartown, Mass. Though they don’t own a sailboat, they frequently race with friends in the RYC’s Vesper races.