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Denis Daly Wood - President and CEO

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Dalys 1895 Brown Alligator Belt

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Houston Chronicle – September 5, 2014

Department store from 1895 reborn as 21st-century website

High-end goods attract young men, six-figure incomes

By Sandra Bretting

"We did a lot of research and found the category that was underserved the most was certain types of men's high-end furnishings," says Denis Wood, president and CEO of Dalys1895.com. Wood says his favorite item on the website is a sterling silver cuff link that hides a flash drive.

In 1895, two Irish brothers opened a department store in Eureka, Calif., that sold jackets and dry goods to fishermen and lumberjacks.

Branching out, the brothers and their heirs added more upscale items and locations, ultimately opening six stores in northern California and Oregon by 1970.

"I'll never forget working in the Eureka store as a 15-year-old," said Denis Wood, a great-grandson of co-founder Cornelius Daly. "I learned everything about customer service from that store."

The stores are gone now - sold when the real estate beneath them became too valuable - but Wood never forgot the allure of running a family business, he said.

After more than 20 years in the high-tech industry, and ultimately retiring from Compaq Computer Corp. in 2004, he decided to resurrect the family's stores as a website.

"It was clear to me where business development was occurring," Wood said. "With a lot of the startup companies I worked with, I saw how successful they could be and eventually I was able to take this old-fashioned idea of the department store and move it onto the Web."

With 27 heirs of the original Daly brothers, that transition could have been tricky, Wood said.

"What was really gratifying to me was that all of the cousins liked the idea of this website," according to Wood. "They've been big supporters from the very start."

Dalys1895.com offers high-end men's goods, including cuff links, pocket squares and bow ties.

"We did a lot of research and found the category that was underserved the most was certain types of men's high-end furnishings," Wood said. "We decided to eliminate clothes or shoes right off the bat."

Wood said he considers his competition to be high-end stores like Neiman Marcus, Barneys and Nordstrom. The average shopper on the site is in his late 20s, with a six-figure income, Wood said.

He launched the website in June 2013 using $700,000 in personal funds. As an original investor in the educational toy company LeapFrog, which his brother founded 20 years ago, Wood said he was able to retire by age 46.

"When I started this, I wanted to create a family business that I could pass down to my son," Wood said. Daly Wood is a sophomore at Texas Christian University studying business. "So in effect this will be the fifth generation of family running the store."

The website offers 900 products in 10 categories.

The company, which has four employees, keeps $1 million worth of inventory dispersed among 14 warehouses owned by Amazon nationwide.

Many of the items are handmade.

"Denis is very particular about the products that appear on his website," said Chris Lang, a Houston silversmith who creates custom cuff links and money clips for Dalys1895.com. "Since he's local, we met for more than a month to talk about different designs and try out different weights for the metal."

Wood said his favorite item on the website is a men's sterling silver cuff link that hides a flash drive.

"It's a fun thing that you can wear," Woods said. "I don't think you'll find too many online sites that are as deep in the same categories that we carry."

He also said he thinkshis great-grandfather would approve of the business.

"He was a complete innovator, so I think he'd be happy about it," Wood said. "He'd probably come up with his own ideas to contribute."