By Alex May
Step into the elevator and head to the tenth floor. It’s been a long day, and what’s needed most is a loosened tie and a tumbler of the brown stuff. Usually, refuge is sought in a dimly lit dive bar where billiards crack and the barflies buzz, greased by the flaxen pints arranged like chess pieces atop the stained lumber.
This place, though, is different.
The Wingtip Club, tucked away from the bustle of the downtown crowds, is perfect for those members in need of a drink, a reprieve, and nearly anything else they can dream. Located in the historic Bank of Italy building in the Financial District, the club opened in 2010, moving two years later to its current location, resting on top of the eponymous, thriving gentleman’s haberdashery on Montgomery and Clay. The social club was born out of dapper owner Ami Arad’s need to “create a perk for our best customer.” He conceived a plan to give meaningful returns—a destination—to the consumer outside of a fresh set of shoes or a sharp hat.
The elevator doors part and a smiling receptionist is the first to greet members upon arrival. On either side of the concierge are pocket squares, cufflinks, a selection of handsome watches, and swank ties available on loan. Take a left down the corridor and Sinatra and Mr. Davis float into the ear, pleasantly audible but not intrusive. Sidle up to that most beautiful of ovals for a proper cocktail and gaze at one of the better Scotch and wine collections in the country. All throughout, there are nooks for a business meeting or a few moments alone after a chaotic week. More often than not, members hear their name as the hospitable staff puts forth the effort of getting to know who walks through the door.
Need a straight razor shave, quick haircut, or a suit jacket tailored? Sure. Wingtip’s got that covered. Besides clothing members and ensuring their tipple needs are attended to, the club plates three squares a day, and forthcoming Executive Chef Matt Payne is signed on to make the already great selection even better. There is even an Audi car service.
Besides all the tangible benefits, the exclusivity, privacy, and just plain calm Wingtip provides is paramount to the member’s experience. “There aren’t many of this thing,” says Arad when discussing its unique approach. This institution is different from the upscale hotel bar, ubiquitous in any major city, and strives to cultivate a community of people who enjoy the finer things and are willing to pay for it.
The old model of the stuffy social club is just that, old. Wingtip blasts the dust off its predecessors, places where women weren’t allowed, a jacket and tie demanded, and the exchange of business cards or use of technology rebuffed. “I wish I could force everyone to wear a coat and tie, but that’s not the world we live in,” Arad says, “and that’s good, because it allows people to wear clothes that express their own sense of style, priorities, and taste.”
What’s next for the club is steeped in delightful uncertainty. Ami’s ambition is humbled and focused, but he’s taking the proper steps to ensure members are happy and satisfied with the direction. All good things in time, he believes. Until then, he’ll put the finishing touches on the wine cave, the private parlors, and the sure to be popular roof deck overlooking downtown San Francisco. Ideas abound in the mind of the man whose high-and-tight cut is adjusted every two weeks in Wingtip’s barber chair, and though this venture is already 10 years old, he’s just getting started.