O’NEAL has been producing motocross protective gear and apparel since 1970. In the early days, the products were literally sold out of the back of Jim O’neal’s van by Jim himself. Jim and his company have come a long way since then, recently moving in to their brand new 67,000 square foot offices and warehouse north of Los Angeles. Their new digs are impressive, housing O’NEAL, Azonic, and Blur under one roof. Art Director Eric Perlman and Vice President Frank Kashare recently gave us the grand tour and sat down to talk with us about the future of the company.
Thanks for taking time to talk with us, Frank. What’s going on with O’NEAL? What’s new and exciting?
We just moved to a new, larger, building. We were technically using multiple buildings before, so it was difficult to coordinate shipping and other logistics. The new facility is in Simi Valley, and at 67,000 square feet, it gives us some room to grow. We’re just finishing up our lobby/showroom. Thus far it’s working out real nice.
We know O’NEAL is a motocross brand, but you guys are involved in some other things as well.
Our primary focus is motocross. We also have Blur, our eyewear line that is doing very well with our new B1 goggle and full sunglass range. Plus we have our Azonic brand, which is primarily focused on cycling. All of them are doing very well and we’re very busy.
You showed me some very cool new motocross helmets.
Yeah, we have a lot of new helmets this year, starting at $88.99, which is a new price for us, all the way up to $329.99 for our top-of-the line 9 series. We have offerings to fit every budget. From polycarbonate, to kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass; really a range of features to fit every rider, from a weekend warrior to a hardcore racer.
During the tour of the new building we were impressed with your warehouse and the amount of product you have stocked onsite.
In all we have a little over 8,000 part numbers. Quite a wide selection of jerseys, helmets, pants, boots, tie downs, goggles, you name it. Just about everything you can ask for.
Who do you consider to be your primary customer? Is it the hardcore racer, or the casual rider?
I think it’s both. We get a lot of hardcore moto guys. In looking at sales, we do really well with our high-end gear and we also do well with the intro level gear. There are a lot of people who are weekend warriors, or those just getting into the sport, and we fit them as well as the hardcore racer.
O’NEAL has become known for some impressive magazine ads, and model search contest. Tell us more about that!
That was really created by Eric. We would meet some of the local southern California girls, and they would ask to be in an ad. Some of the girls we have featured in ads have gone on to do big things; television, movies and modeling careers. That sort of evolved into some of the calendars we have done as well as the contest. We literally get thousands of girls entering, and some crazy photos that we can never show in an ad. All-in-all it is impressive how many people respond to vote for the girls, and how many girls enter the contest. It’s been fun.
We had a chance to talk with Jim O’neal about his racing background, and we’ve noticed lots of old school motocross photos around the halls. It is obvious there is a lot of history here.
There is definitely a lot of history at O’NEAL. We have been in business since 1970! Jim is a racer from back in the day; he’s been riding and racing motorcycles his entire life and still rides and races to this day. Most everyone who works here rides or races to some degree. Really the company was founded on racing. Back in the late sixties there wasn’t a lot of protective gear available and the sport was evolving. Jim was literally racing on the weekends and started selling tires out of his van, and then staarted making his own gear. We became the only distributor in Southern California, and then started focusing more on developing our own stuff as the big distributors began growing and opening warehouses locally. We are really focusing on our own brands and building the best products we can for the sport. It’s kind of nice, and sort of a Cinderella story as it evolved from a passion for racing into something we all enjoy and are able to do for a living.
We talked quite a bit with Jim about his experiences down in Baja…
Yeah, that’s common in Jim’s office–talking about Baja (laughs). He still loves racing, and truly has a passion for it. I think that’s important, because for him the products come first. He torture-tests all these products before they go to market. Growing from passion first leads the company in the right direction.
Where can people get more information about O’NEAL and your 2007 products?