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Bill Murray's 'Caddyshack'-Inspired Golf Line Expands in Texas

Austin E-Commerce Startup Plans Move to First Corporate Headquarters with Showroom Space
October 9, 2018

Bill Murray, the face of Austin, Texas, golf apparel line, William Murray Golf.

When William Murray Golf began considering expansion beyond e-commerce, it became clear the sports apparel line endorsed by elusive actor Bill Murray, a cult star of the 1980 golfing-related film "Caddyshack," would need bricks-and-mortar space and a showroom for special guests.

With the help of Jones Lang LaSalle, the 2-year-old company quickly honed in on a standalone, 2,735-square-foot office space at 1308 E. 7th St. in the growing market of East Austin, Texas.

"We are at an all-time maximum capacity," said Kerry Michaels, William Murray Golf's chief operating officer. "Even though we are primarily in the direct-to-consumer business right now, we have this wholesale business. We are looking to scale both the e-commerce and wholesale golf marketing business."

The four-person firm expects to move in by the end of the year and now has the capacity to add 10 employees to its first corporate headquarters. Michaels said the expansion offers a place to build brand affinity, with special "friends of the brand" events on the horizon.

"In the e-commerce business, we had to be a little bit leaner in terms of how we operated, but from a wholesale standpoint, we needed a larger space that would allow us to have a mini-showroom or place would-be investors could come learn about the brand," said Brandon Barrett, chief executive officer.

William Murray Golf executives Kerry Michaels and Brandon Barrett, from left, chat with actor Bill Murray about the clothing line they launched in Austin, Texas, with the help of Murray's brothers. Photo courtesy: William Murray Golf.

William Murray Golf plans to put its product in the hands of would-be buyers with the help of mobile pop-up shops. Specifics are still being discussed, Michaels said.

"Online, we do our best to show the detail of the brand, but you can't mimic seeing it in person," she added. "People are always surprised by the quality of our product, they love the way it feels and fits. This is a way for us to bring the brand to people."

The company began when Michaels and Barrett took a swing at developing an irreverent golf apparel line inspired by Murray and his brothers at the family-run annual Caddyshack Golf Tournament in St. Augustine, Florida. They knew they would need a lot of luck.

Landing the endorsement of Murray would be a near-impossible feat for the two Austinite entrepreneurs.

"Most people assumed it wouldn't happen," said Michaels, who has previously spent years helping build the Oakley brand before trying her hand in the startup world in Austin. "We were able to pitch it to one of Bill's brothers, who loved it, but trying to get Bill to say 'yes,' to anything is tricky. He doesn't endorse brands."

He also doesn't say 'yes' to interviews. Requests through the company to speak to the actor were declined.

The attempts to get all the Murray brothers to consider the idea was three years ago. It took a golf cart pitch to Bill's youngest brother, Joel, at the Caddyshack tournament, a series of meetings occurring over a year's time convincing the Murray brothers to give it a go, and a formal agreement before William Murray Golf was launched in February 2016.

Photo credit: William Murray Golf.

Since then, the firm has landed some high-profile investors, such as Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and actor Ed Norton. The strategic network of stakeholders in William Murray Golf is intent on building the apparel line and the brand the "right way," Michaels said.

"We came out of the gates strong, a lot stronger than people expected for a startup," she said. "We started from scratch and climbed into the seven digits very quickly, and we are growing over 50 percent this year."

Michaels and Barrett declined to disclose the exact revenue of William Murray Golf, citing the privacy of the company. But the pairing of Bill Murray's name and the interested stakeholders has been a success so far, Michaels said.

"In a sea of blue stripes, we are offering golfers something different," she said. "We are telling the Bill Murray story, through his movies or brothers, [that] is tied to something authentic in the space in golf. This is an open space in the golf world."

That demand for irreverent golf apparel, summed up in a cultural fondness for "Caddyshack" and William Murray's Golf logo featuring a golfer tossing a club behind him, has helped fuel the fledging clothing line's growth out of an Austin coworking facility called TechSpace, where it began operating in June 2017. The search for a larger space began about six months ago.

William Murray Golf's new home in East Austin seems fitting, given it's in a startup-friendly neighborhood that also seems to have its own growth trajectory, Barrett said.

William Murray Golf's new headquarters at 1308 E. Seventh St. in East Austin.

"East Austin is another part of Austin that is growing and is a long-term solution as this becomes a more stable brand for years to come," he said. "We want people to know we are here and building something from the ground up."

Spencer Holbert, the Jones Lang LaSalle broker who led the real estate search, said the new office puts William Murray Golf in the midst of restaurants, bars and other amenities sought after by tech-savvy employees.

"Especially for a startup, every dollar you spend is way more important, and this is a neighborhood that will help them attract and retain talent," Holbert said. "This is the perfect area for startups that is fun and casual and where people want to work and play."

According to JLL data, East Austin delivered the most new office product in the area of the Texas capital with 229,400 square feet of new space completed so far this year. The new construction, JLL researchers say, is tied to significant investor interest seeking to capitalize on the neighborhood's growing popularity.

For the record:

While Holbert of JLL represented William Murray Golf, Tim Grondin and Dave van Heuven of ISO Commercial represented the landlord, Charla Wood.

Candace Carlisle, Dallas-Fort Worth Reporter  CoStar Group   
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