To say that Sam Hirsh grew up in the luggage business isn’t an overstatement. He was a stock boy with a luggage company in his native Chicago at age 15 and a buyer for the firm at 19. He ran his own sales agency until he was about to “follow the lifelong dream of every Jewish boy – open a hot dog stand.” But two days before he was scheduled to open, a nationally franchised sandwich shop next door threatened to file suit against his landlord to block the stand and the competition it represented. So Hirsh and his wife, Kate, moved in 2007 to her home state of Maine, where they opened up TripQuipment, a travel goods store, on Route 1 in Falmouth. The store has three full-time employees and one summer employee. He declined to give details on annual sales.

Q. What’s the idea behind your store?

A. It’s a reflection of everything we wanted when we were (luggage manufacturer) representatives. We wanted a store that was more all-encompassing than just luggage. We wanted to reflect our store’s catchphrase: “Around the corner, around the world.” We offer everything from travel underwear, to electrical stuff you need for traveling, to travel clothing. The idea is that when people walk in here, we get them ready for their trip. We have a wonderful loyal local clientele, and there’s a very big shop-local movement here, which I love. That doesn’t happen in big cities as much.

Q. If someone comes in your store and says they’re going on a trip, what’s the first thing you suggest they get?

A. The most important thing is something secure to travel with. When people go overseas, they need to safeguard their passport. If there are two things we sell every day, it’s something to hide your passport in that goes under your clothes, and electrical items. If you’ve ever lost your passport, it’s a tough thing to get replaced. Guard your passport. Money and credit cards can be replaced and smartphones can be wiped remotely and easily replaced, but a passport you want to safeguard.

There is not a week that goes by that we don’t have someone tell us about places where pick-pocketing is a problem – Italy, Spain or France, primarily. People also get a false sense of security about things. People tell you that you should use room safes, but you don’t use those because housekeeping can open them up. Use a manager’s safe. Use common sense and don’t try to look like a tourist. If you don’t know where you’re going, look like you know where you’re going.


Q. Do you travel a lot?

A. I love to travel, but I got into this business because I’ve been in it so long. We decided this is what we know and we know it well. I think the idea is to love the idea you’ve come up with, have a game plan, learn as much about that business as you can and use good common sense. Common sense is a great thing.

Q. What’s the biggest mistake people make in traveling?

A. People need to be realistic about how they travel. Now that airlines charge for a checked bag, everyone wants to be a carry-on traveler, but not everyone should be a carry-on traveler. People need to be realistic about their needs and outfit themselves accordingly. The most-sold piece of luggage in my store is a carry-on, but when you buy that, you need to learn how to deny yourself, because that makes you more efficient. You can tell the people who shouldn’t be a carry-on traveler. You see them going through security. Some people say, “I’m going away for three or four weeks and I really want to be a carry-on.” So I talk to them about whether they can really do it. You want people to realistically look at it.

If I have someone going off to India, they come in and talk about things like water, and they say they’ll use bottled water. But if you don’t know the source of bottled water, it can make you sick, so you have people take water purification items. If you get a waterborne illness, it’s a terrible thing. We want people to think about that stuff.

We also try to make people understand that they should be taking as much information as they can about themselves, like health history, whether it’s on a piece of paper or a smart device. When I was 41, I had a heart attack on a plane crossing the Pacific. Luckily, it was mild and I didn’t even know it was a heart attack, but when I got back to Chicago, I went to a doctor and it turns out I had had a heart attack. If it had gotten worse and I had to go to a hospital, I wanted to have a health history to give them.


Q. OK, tell me about travel underwear.

A. Travel underwear is the biggest category in my store, along with electrical connections. The fabric is like Under Armour and it breathes. You can wash the underwear out in a sink and it dries in about two hours and it’s fresh the next day, so you don’t have to take a suitcase full of underwear. We also sell a lot of wool clothing – it’s a temperature-management fabric and keeps you warm when it’s cool and cool when it’s warm. It’s absolutely phenomenal.

Q. What about luggage?

A. Our main product line is Briggs and Riley. It has lifetime coverage, including airline damage, and that’s good because the airlines don’t cover as much as they used to.

Q. What’s your main thought about travel these days?

A. Travel isn’t as glamorous as it used to be, when people used to dress up to fly. So treat the people at TSA with courtesy and respect. It goes a long way, and it does with airline employees, too. You have to temper your reactions, but a smile and some kindness go a long way. People are far more apt to do things for you. It goes far in terms of how you will be treated.

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