You’ve got to love the holidays. In New York City, it’s that time of year when famous department stores like Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman build on their good will, pulling out all the stops to wow onlookers with awesome window displays based on cool and clever themes. Never fails: Gawkers are attracted to the window displays and foot traffic then flows into the stores. But the real challenge for all stores is carrying what prospective customers want to buy, and most stores don’t showcase high-flying window displays to help with that. Exceptional retail stores excel at attracting customers year round and I got the chance to talk with dynamic fashion retail entrepreneur Paul Birardi, who with his partner, Eddy Chai, founded ODIN New York, an ultra-hip menswear store known for its staff being as nice as the clothes are cool. Eight years later and three stores to date, not only is ODIN a success in the highly competitive, growing men’s category of luxury fashion, it’s cultivating its own lifestyle brand while continuously dazzling its shoppers with curated offerings from the likes of Thom Browne, Shipley & Halmos and Richard Chai to name a few. To top it all off, ODIN was a featured collection for The Shops at Target, for which Paul and Eddy delivered some twenty clothing and accessories pieces at wallet friendly prices Target is celebrated for. I spoke with Paul about the store’s origins, the role his business development skills play in ODIN’s success…and Norse Gods.
Sledge: As ODIN’s founder-owners, you and your partner, Eddy Chai, have created one of the most successful fashion retail stores in the country. I’d like to start with you sharing with MO.com readers how the origin of ODIN came about. How did you and Eddy meet? What lead to your launch in 2004?