For decades, Flight 001 has been the pinnacle of what a travel store should be: useful gadgets and fun travel accessories, all with a quirk and charm that make them extra special. It’s the kind of travel store you’d image Richard Branson opening.
Recently, I was able to sit down with Flight 001 co-founder Brad John on a gorgeous morning near Madison Square in Manhattan to discover the story behind such a fascinating business.
Keith: Naturally, my first question is going to be, how did all of this get started?
Brad: Well, me and my business partner were both business travelers who were always traveling. Everywhere we’d go, we’d say, why can’t we find good travel gear? We wanted things that were stylish and practical. And remember, we at Flight 001 were one of the firsts to make things bright and colorful. Before us, travel gear was black, brown, or dark blue…there were no other options!
I said to my business partner, “We need to open a travel store!”
We ended up in a five-hour-long conversation about it. Six months later, we had our first store in New York City. We started the whole business with only $10,000, which is pretty shocking looking back now.
Keith: What was the reception when you first opened?
Brad: Oh, we were a big hit! We were getting featured in the all the big magazines, and we even had products featured on the Rachel Ray Show. We started expanding rapidly, going into cities like Chicago, Sydney, and Los Angeles. But then the global recession happened…
Keith: I’m guessing that really hurt your business?
Brad: I mean, it hurt everyone’s business. It was just brutal. And making things worse was that after the recession, brick and mortar retail never recovered in the same way. Amazon began to dominate everything, and people just decided they were going to shop online from now on. We lost a lot of our stores.
Keith: I visited your website earlier today, and noticed you do have some new stores…so clearly something has happened with your brand since then?
Brad: Yes! We are doing very well in Asia right now (They have stores in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Taiwan) and we’re about to bring more back to America.
Keith: So there’s something in the works?
Brad: I’m thinking of it as a re-launch. I want us to bring the things we’ve learned in the Asia market back to America. We’re going to keep the Jet Age inspired design in our stores, but with modern touches added to it. Our stores are also going to become really tech-friendly, because travel tech is so important these days. And we’re also going to make sure that every single store is a well-curated collection. People love our stores because they’re not filled with junk. Every single item we sell (both in store and online) has been handpicked and physically tested by us. People love knowing that when they come in they’re going to find great things!
Keep your eyes open for new stores opening in the US as early as next year! if you’re looking for a truly amazing retail experience, visit Flight 001’s Manhattan store, which Brad regularly works in!