When Ami Arad first considered opening OnTheFly, a men’s specialty store, he looked into many marketing trends and consumer interest studies.
But his main inspiration for the company may have been one fruitless day spent in downtown San Francisco.
"I was picking up some things for myself one day and I was all over the place looking for what I wanted," said Arad, who graduated from Cal with a degree in political science.
"I went to a clothing store and picked up some pants, then drove over to another part of town to get bottle of wine, then went to a humidor and smoked a cigar. I spent over $40 in parking alone. I thought to myself, ‘I’m not the only person who likes these things — why not put them under one roof?’"
With that in mind, OnTheFly was launched in 2004 in its initial incarnation as an online retailer with products ranging from high-end men’s clothing to corkscrews to leather goods.
By founding OnTheFly, Arad hoped to capitalize on the broad assortment of interests of men, by combining all elements into one company.
The appeal of the idea has certainly taken off, as OnTheFly’s profits tripled from 2005 to 2006, and the company is on pace to quadruple those numbers in 2007.
After succeeding as an online entity, Arad and company shifted focus to open a retail outlet location in the SoMa district — a vast, 4,000-square-foot warehouse with 40-foot ceilings, replete with leather couches, plasma-screen televisions and an extensive collection of men’s clothes, among other amenities.
"There is only so much shopping for pants one guy can take," Arad said. "He’s not going to want to look for anything else after spending time in one store. Why not give him all the options he wants right in front of him?"
Next up for the company will be building on their retail locations, including a proposed plan for a site in San Francisco’s Financial District, as well as expanding the interior of those outlets to feature fully functioning wine cellars and specialty humidor rooms for cigar smoking.
"I think we’re unlike any company in that we have such a wide range of products," Arad said. "But in the end, we’re not doing anything groundbreaking, which appeals to our customers. It’s definitely something new but there is still a sense of familiarity to what we offer."
New project: Ambitious downtown retail location in 2008
Last project: Home & Garden TV show to air this summer about the store
Number of e-mails a day: Counting spam?
Number of voice mails a day: 15
Essential Web site: OnTheFly.com
Best perk: Everything I love at wholesale!
Gadgets: Treo 650, Official Game Haven Crystalcade, Toschi S1 Sock
Education: Cal – go Bears!
Last conference: Collective (men’s clothing show)
First job: Debate coach, James Logan High School (Union City)
Original aspiration: Diplomat
Career objective: Retire a wealthy shopkeeper
Height: 5 feet 8 inches
Likes: A barbershop shave, the Sunday paper, a good shoe shine, steak and potatoes (preferably all on the same day)
Dislikes: People who slow traffic by sitting in a double-parked car when they could block a driveway instead and probably not bother anyone
Defining quirks: I own more than 50 pairs of shoes; I have officiated six weddings and am preparing for a seventh in May; addicted to ice cream, the news and soccer (watching and playing).
Hometown: Pismo Beach
Transportation: Company car
Favorite restaurant: Bix
Vacation spot: What’s a vacation?
Favorite clothier: Myself
Role Model: James Bond
Reading: Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions, by Ben Mezrich
Worst fear: Failing
Motivation: Modernize the concept of the gentleman