Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recreation and Re-Creation: Meet Brett Eisenberg of Triple Aught Design

The team from Triple Aught Design (TAD) poses in front of a 70s era Gama Goat. Top Left to Right: Mike, Skylar, Jessica, Kyle, Dave, Gianni, Al, Peter, Brett. Bottom Left to Right: Evan, Raquel, Richard

Brett Eisenberg, CEO of Triple Aught Design (TAD), does not want anyone to think that TAD is defined by him or by any one individual.  He is adamant that the success of the company is because of their amazing team and the products they offer.   Even the clothes he wore the day we met with him blended in with the sea of camouflage and khaki clothes that surrounded him in the TAD retail space on 22nd Street at Third.

It's true that for many years after Patrick Ma founded TAD in 1997 the image of the company and the founder were indistinguishable.  In the early years the mission of TAD was to curate high-end third party products and it built its early reputation and a cult customer following on custom knives and other third party products followed.  Its first clothing product was introduced in 2000 - a soft shell explorer jacket.

Today the company sells its outdoor gear and apparel direct to customers through its Dogpatch and Hayes Valley retail locations.

Over the last few years TAD has transitioned from a non-manufacturing company offering only third party products to a manufacturing company that controls every single aspect of the products it offers.  Although Patrick Ma left the company in 2013, TAD continues to build upon its earlier success to become one of the largest producers of apparel in the Bay Area.

The company recently completed a remodel of its Dogpatch headquarters and has now grown to 30 employees.  All design, pattern making, prototyping, production management and fulfillment of products take place in Dogpatch with the actual manufacturing occurring in Oakland.  The company still offers non-apparel products like those custom knives but those items are now co branded with TAD to ensure they meet the company's standards.
Brett Eisenberg, CEO of Triple Aught Design at the company HQ in San Francisco's Dogpatch Neighborhood.

Why do you do what you do?
I was a customer of TAD since its early days.  I grew up in Colorado and was always an outdoor adventure guy so I loved and used their products.

I wanted to be in technology so I eventually moved to California.  I spent most of the 1990s primarily as an engineer helping technology and biotech companies reach their potential.  Although I enjoyed that business I really wanted to be in a business where I could be involved in all aspects of the life cycle of a product -- I wanted to actually be able to touch the product.  That became harder and harder to do in the technology world where so many products are produced overseas.

I felt like I had an opportunity to do that with TAD -- to be involved with all aspects of the product and I joined the company in 2009.  I really felt like I could see what the company could become.  We effectively relaunched the company September 1, 2010 rebranding as a manufacturing company selling direct to customers.

Why Dogpatch?
The original location of TAD was in Jack London Square in Oakland.  In 2004 the company moved to Dogpatch.  We love the industrial, very hands-on feeling of the area -- we feel like it mirrors what we are doing and we really feel like we fit in here.   We have a great support network in this community.  The landlord of this building, Greg Markoulis, and his team have gone out of their way to help us grow and be able to stay in the American Industrial Center.  They have really been a partner in our growth.

We love the feel of the small community in Dogpatch.  The same folks we see when we are out having lunch are the customers we see in our shop. 

What is the story behind the name Triple Aught Design?
Engineers use 000 (triple aught) as shorthand for a thousandth of an inch, which is the high standard of precision tolerance.   We apply those same high standards and attention to detail to our products. The name was later changed to TAD Gear but we changed it back to Triple Aught Design in 2010 when we decided to relaunch the company as a product company and not a curator of third party products.  We felt it truly reflected our new mission.
A mannequin stands gurad at Triple Aught Designs in San Francisco. TAD features precise designs made to military precision in the Dogpatch Store.

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