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The Rhythm of Reitz

Most of us hear rhythm and think of music. While true, there’s more to rhythm than that. The way you choose to move, who you move with, the routines you hold sacred, the rituals you abide by. For some, for those who really choose to live, there’s a real rhythm to life. Yet, arriving at this place, this version of yourself, is not a smooth journey. It takes effort and time and tenacity.

Brooks and Erin Reitz may just be the best example of rhythmic living. They’ve refined themselves, pushed forward, pulled back, and arrived at what works for them. As individuals, as a unit, as parents, and as professionals - they’ve found the rhythm that has allowed them to balance work and family and to move through life with a diligent purpose. Some might say, they have mastered knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

Calling Charleston, South Carolina home and making waves there and beyond - you’ve got two entrepreneurs and two wildly interesting and creative individuals with the Reitz Family. Brooks, a restaurateur, writer, and designer. And Erin, a designer, artist, and founder. 

To spend time and speak with Brooks and Erin Reitz is to witness not only their creative gifts and attention to detail, but also - their rhythms. We’re proud to call them friends of the brand, and we hope you enjoy getting a peek behind the curtain as we talk about Charleston, their journeys, lessons learned, and a little bit of everything in between. It’s our pleasure to introduce... The Reitz Family.


Who are the Reitzes?

Brooks: A little trio living in Charleston, SC.

You both are entrepreneurs and creative powerhouses. Were you both creative from the beginning? Did you always know you’d end up where you are now? Let’s start with you, Brooks. 

Brooks: My dad had been in the restaurant business before I was born. I heard some war stories growing up, but it wasn't something I was interested in. We never went out to eat - my parents couldn't afford it. I am a writer, and I intended to go to graduate school to study playwriting. That plan changed when I visited NYC for the first time at 19 and went to eat at Balthazar. I clearly understood at that moment that restaurants were theater and I could tell stories within their walls and maybe eat some good food while doing it.

Your restaurants certainly emulate theater, and those familiar with Leon’s, Little Jack’s, and Melfi’s would agree. But how would you describe each? What’s their “secret sauce,” in your opinion?

Brooks: I describe Leon's as a breezy oyster and fried chicken joint, Little Jack's is a classic American tavern, and Melfi's is a classic and clubby Italian spot. If we have any at all, I'd say our "secret sauce" is creating great spaces where people like to be, hiring nice people, knowing who we are, delivering consistent food over many years, and keeping the places clean.

We can attest to all of this, deeply loving each spot. Charleston has a burgeoning food and fashion scene. Describe those scenes for those who may not know. 

Brooks: The food scene is astounding. It has no business being as good as it is. This city has attracted a lot of talent, and we're lucky enough to have a customer base - both locals and tourists - that appreciate and support what we do. Honestly, we are spoiled.

Erin:  In terms of fashion, I am most inspired by the old-school preppy shops on King Street, menswear-focused. Charleston has a lovely tradition of a “sense of occasion” when it comes to dress. You can go out to dinner and get dressed up and not feel out of place. 

And on the subject of Charleston - what are your favorite things about life there?

Brooks: The weather, the access to nature, and the pace.

Erin: It is a relaxed place to live. Charming, walkable, and most of all, we have a community of like-minded creative friends who mean the world to us. 

What are a few of your favorite things to do, eat, and see?

Brooks: Run in Hampton Park, bike through South of Broad, see a movie at the Terrace Theater, shop the Sea Island Farmer's Market, buy local fish and shrimp from the docks, long lunch at Chez Nous with great wine, lunch with friends at Leon's on a beautiful spring day, nature hikes through Laurel Hill County Park, and a cold Pilsner at Munkle Brewing on a brisk fall or winter afternoon.

Erin: I obviously love Brooks’ restaurants. A shrimp burger at Little Jacks, the Siam salad at Leon's, and the Stretch Armstrong pizza at Melfi’s. I am also a die-hard fan of Chez Nous. This is my lady lunch and date spot. We love evening picnics on the beach on Sullivans Island, weekend strolls through Hampton Park, and, yes, a beer at Munkle Brewery.

We’ve rightfully gotten sidetracked and could talk Charleston all day. But Erin - back to you. Were you also creative from the beginning, and did you always know you’d end up where you are now? 

Erin: I have always been very creative. My earliest memories are of my brother making fun of me for making sculptures out of trash as a kid. [Laughs] Now, it’s one of my favorite things to do with my 4-year-old son! I studied photography and sculpture in college, along side studying business. I had never considered fashion. I had moved to NYC after college and was looking for marketing jobs until a fateful meeting with a woman in a bar who was a clothing designer and was looking for an intern. I began to work for her the very next morning, and after just a few moments in the studio, I realized that this [design] was what I wanted to do for my career. It was the perfect combination of art and business.

Amazing. Can you describe your work with and history with our mutual friend, Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin?

Oh, I could talk about this forever. I met Natalie Chanin through my husband. I had done a project on Natalie at FIT! As soon as I met her, I was star-struck. We were instant close friends, and I have been designing for Alabama Chanin since we met. I still consult for the company. Working with Natalie always brings me inspiration and a fresh perspective. She is a mentor and dear friend.

Natalie is a special person. Speaking of inspiration - a lofty question, but what inspires you both?

Erin: Easy answer: everything! Truly, I am most inspired by artists. I love to learn about creative minds, interesting lifestyles, the choices artists have made, etc. One of our core family values is to promote creativity as much as we can in our home and lifestyle. We travel as much as possible to expose ourselves to new cultures, colors, tastes, etc. As much as possible, we try to bring our new learning home and apply it to our businesses and home life.

Brooks: Movies, music, magazines, other people, travel, restaurants that are better than mine, my wife, my sons - in no particular order.

Erin, what drove you to start your own line? Can you share how E.M. Reitz came to be? 

Erin: I dreamt of starting a women’s shirt company when I was 22. I started this company when I was 44! It took half my life to get there. I had been designing for various companies and finally was ready to execute my own expression. I had also just had a baby, and that not only gave me the confidence to go out on my own, but also a real need to express exactly who I am outwardly. Setting an example for my son is a huge driving force.

E.M. Reitz is all about the makings of a good, crisp shirt. What makes a simple shirt, simply beautiful? 

Erin: Oh, so many things. First and foremost, the fabric must feel amazing on the skin. I almost think how a shirt feels is more important than how it looks. Then of course, the design, fit, and construction. I am a seam fanatic, obsessing over beautiful, clean construction. French seams are my favorite. And tiny needling with very small and precise stitches. 

What is your long-term vision for E.M. Reitz? 

Erin: I am building a small business that I would like to keep small. I am meeting incredible women who have become a group of very loyal clients. I hope to build a small but mighty community of clients and sell enough to hit a few modest goals - small team, appointment-only shop, but I want to keep it as small and bespoke as possible once I make my goals. Bigger is not better for this company.

Love that. Brooks, speaking of bigger not necessarily being better. Let’s talk Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and your thoughtful small-batch products.  

Brooks: I started Jack Rudy when I moved to Charleston. I was managing the bar at FIG [in Charleston, SC], and it was clear that the coastal cocktail renaissance was making its way to Charleston. We were moving away from mini bottles, and customers were receptive to learning about new cocktails. There was excitement about what people were drinking, and I discerned an opportunity to create a best-in-class cocktail mixer that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the legacy liquor brands. I launched it at the restaurant, and the reception was positive. I could sense there was a market that was being neglected, and I was right. 13 years later, we're still thriving, creating new products, and working with the best bars, restaurants, and bottle shops in the world.

Jack Rudy pays homage to your great-grandfather, which is special. Any particular name inspiration folks might not know about your other ventures?

Brooks: Leon's inherited the name of the previous business. It had been an auto body shop called Leon's Paint & Auto Body Shop. We kept the handpainted sign, changed "Paint" to "Poultry" and "Auto Body" to "Oyster," crossed our fingers, opened the doors, and the rest is history. The full name of the restaurant is Leon's Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop, but most people just call it Leon's.

You’ve both got something new cooking. Which, respectfully, seems crazy given all that you already do! [Laughs] But tell us more about your latest project, Teamwork. 

Brooks: Teamwork is a true and proper collaboration between the two of us, uniting our worlds of clothing design and hospitality. It's a creative project sitting at the intersection of those interests and exploring that relationship through product.

What is your vision for Teamwork?

Erin: We'd like to create a system of garments for home cooks, artists, and gardeners and outfit large teams in hospitality venues and beyond.  We're intrigued by the idea of uniforms and the energy they create in a space when done well.

And on the subject of doing it all - Brooks, tell us more about what inspired you to start “A Small and Simple Thing” on Substack. It’s quite popular. 

Brooks: During COVID, I started a video series on Instagram called "Brooks Cooks." It took off in a way I didn't expect. But putting yourself out there on camera comes with some challenges. I didn't want to be perceived as an influencer. Instead, I took my interests to Substack, which allowed me to explore my love of and interest in food but also cast a wider net. I write about travel, parenting, style, and sometimes, why men should get more facials! As Substack has grown, so has my audience. It's one of my favorite things I'm doing right now.

You both are multi-faceted, and style is a part of this. You both dress timelessly and effortlessly. What are your philosophies on getting dressed? 

Brooks: Buy nice things, be comfortable, and keep it classic but weird.

Erin: Thank you for that - what a compliment. I have dressed the same since high school. I have always loved menswear. Always loved being comfortable (even if I’m dressed up). My mom would play Katherine Hepburn movies on repeat, so maybe that is where I got the idea that I could have a masculine sensibility in my style but also come across as very feminine. I appreciate a sense of order in my wardrobe, a tight color palette, a few stripes, and classic silhouettes. I never have to think too hard to mix and match because everything is sort of in the same family, if that makes sense.

It certainly does. We love a mix of textures and silhouettes here too. Tell me about your relationship with Billy Reid.

Brooks: Billy Reid was one of the first brands I'd encountered that had a distinctly Southern point of view that I responded to. When I moved to Charleston, I remember the excitement of adding a Billy Reid piece to my wardrobe, it felt as though I was graduating from mall brands to developing a stronger sense of design, materials, and point of view.

Do you have a favorite Billy Reid piece? 

Brooks: A John T Shirt that was a dressier part of my wardrobe that I wore to threads over several years of working at FIG and The Ordinary [both restaurants in Charleston, SC]. That was an exciting time in my early professional trajectory, and the shirt was beloved. It saw me through several important years.

Erin: I have worn a brown, long wool coat from Billy Reid for about ten years! It layers beautifully over blazers. I feel regal when I wear it!

Classic pieces!

You guys juggle a household, multiple businesses, and more. What keeps you going? How do you do it?

Brooks: We like to be busy and engaged in projects that excite us. We have countless daily habits and rituals that we've developed together and separately. Perhaps too many to name! We both exercise 5-6 days a week (which could be anything from a run to a session with a trainer to a yoga class), we keep a consistent family mealtime centered around healthy, wholesome food, and we don't drink alcohol at home unless we're entertaining. It sounds stringent, but it's easy, natural, and real. As we've gotten older, we've just clearly understood our limits and what helps us feel our best. Sometimes we veer, of course, but we have a north star we always return to.

To bring you back to this place, do you have a family motto or words you collectively try to live by?

Brooks: We have family values that guide the way we manage our home, the way we parent, our relationships, our professional lives, and our relationships outside the home. These are private notions, but they're centered around creativity, kindness, curiosity, and patience.

On the topic of parenting, how has being a parent changed or influenced your creative processes and businesses?

Brooks: The curiosity of a child is infectious, and it's a reminder of the wonder you can find in anything.

Have there been any standout lessons you’ve learned or specific obstacles you’ve overcome throughout your career?

Brooks: Wow - too many to name. I've had some tremendous success and some astounding defeats. You're not defined by either. I've learned to cultivate my happiness within the home, invest in the people I love, and take care of my mind and body through movement. With those investments, I can navigate anything and come out the other side intact.

Erin: I have learned the necessity of balancing work and life to stay healthy mentally and physically. I will not let myself reach the stress points that I did in my earlier years. My mind, body, and family are my priorities, and nothing will get in the way of that. 

Talk about rhythms - the rhythm of Reitz.

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