The Tommy Bahama Boys
Tommy Bahama's three creators rhapsodize about making their fantasy a successful reality
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007
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Besides the myriad product lines, Tommy's name is on over 60 retail stores around the country. The men hope to expand into international locations next, with plans to create more compounds similar to their original one in Naples.
That the 20,000-square-foot compound in Naples continues to be their most successful venue makes sense. Naples' sun-drenched climate and demographic are a perfect match to the clothing line; locals and tourists alike seem perfectly willing to wait an hour to be seated at the café, and Margolis and Emfield are, for the most part, considered hometown boys, even if they only reside there part-time.
Then again, Tommy Bahama has proven to be a good neighbor, sponsoring and building an impressive garden within the campus of the local NCH Hospital and NCH Regional Cancer Institute. Opened to the public last fall, the Garden of Hope and Courage was the dream of Bob Emfield's first wife, Jan, who died of breast cancer in 1994.
To raise money for the garden, Tommy Bahama's employees held fund-raisers, the company donated proceeds from specific promotions and, together with individual donations, the company raised more than $3 million to make the Garden of Hope and Courage a reality.
And it's a physically beautiful reality. Emfield chose the park as the setting for this interview and, with its small lake and lush landscaping, the park is a tranquil respite for patients at the adjacent hospital and a popular meditation spot for locals.
The company is equally committed to the other communities where it has stores, raising millions each year through golf tournaments and similar events that benefit organizations as diverse as the University of Washington Breast Care Research Center, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Research Center, the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation and the Children's Cancer Research Fund. Explains Dalla Gasperina, "For every company that has the good fortune to succeed to any degree, there is a responsibility that goes beyond your own little world. To contribute through our success to make people's lives better is a duty and, equally, a pleasure."
So, what's next for the three men and Tommy? The three men offer three different answers, but none expounds any further than his own plans for that afternoon: Margolis is headed to a tennis game, Emfield has plans for a barbecue and Dalla Gasperina is off to a business meeting.
As for Tommy, well, there are a few high-end products that he might like to see added to his branded collection—golf clubs, maybe, or the right yacht or automobile—but what would really rock Tommy Bahama's boat is a resort. A really, really, high-end resort.
"We've been approached," Margolis admits, "but it hasn't been the right deal, the right resort concept. I think a Tommy Bahama resort is a natural extension of what we've done and what we're doing. We've already broken the mold with successful, profitable restaurants and we're perfectly situated for the next step, which would be a beachfront resort or golf resort. Tommy Bahama is known for its clothes, yes, but we're really about an entire lifestyle, and what better way to advertise that than at a resort that offers all the opportunities that Tommy would take advantage of?"
Ah, yes, the "What would Tommy want?" litmus test.
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