By Daniel Human
Tribune business writer
— Don’t bother hauling coolers, weighed down with ice and drinks, to the beach.
Shoes work just fine.
A duo of Kokomo residents, one a delivery truck driver, the other an owner of a speaker store with a global market, have begun selling a type of footwear that puts a new spin to the term “bootlegging.”
Hidden within the soles of the sandals created by T.A. Weber and Jim Rayl Jr. are flasks that pour out of the shoes’ heels.
The men admit the FlipFlask isn’t an original idea — the concept spurred from a similar pair Rayl had that was discontinued. But the Kokomo residents say their product is much better quality.
Rayl said he received flask sandals as a gag gift several years ago. The problem was they leaked a lot and trips to the beach meant sand got into the drinks that sloshed below his feet.
After they left the market, Rayl took the idea to Weber.
“I actually took my favorite pair of sandals, hacked them up and put a shot bottle in them,” Weber said.
After about a year of trying out six or seven prototypes, the men had the FlipFlask and its catch phrase: “A party in every pair.” Both the shoes and the slogan are trademarked.
Each sandal’s sole has a bottle that holds 1.5 ounces of fluid. Openings for the container poke out slightly from the heels, where shoe wearers can unscrew the caps and pour their drinks.
“I poured a drink while on a beach in Florida,” Rayl said. “A guy comes up. ‘Did I just see you do what I think I saw you do?’”
Available in a single style of a brown and burnt orange cracked pattern over black soles, FlipFlasks probably won’t earn a spot on a Parisian runway.
But at a cost of $30 per pair, Weber and Rayl have been able to sell a few hundred pairs of FlipFlasks since they debuted in November.
Sales have picked up in recent weeks after regional and national endorsements.
Rayl said he has sent pairs of the sandals to celebrities, including several talk show hosts, around the U.S. in hopes of earning an on-air mention.
The most-viewed spotlight so far came from Ellen DeGeneres earlier this month, when she featured FlipFlasks on her daytime talk show.
With a display of the shoes and a downward tip of the heel, she poured a beverage into a martini glass and the crowd roared.
Her response: “I think if somebody sees you drinking out of a shoe, they might think you have a drinking problem.”
The network TV air time, along with a mention on “The Bob and Tom Show,” led to spurts of buyers who visited FlipFlasks’ website to find a gift that would earn them a laugh.
Made for Men
Rayl and Weber know their product is a novelty, best suited for shelves in gag gift stores. That’s why they’re marketing FlipFlasks to young men.
“They actually are comfortable,” Rayl said.
The duo has been blanketing university campuses, concerts and tailgate areas at sporting events to find buyers. Weber said he and Rayl have convinced a few liquor stores in the Kokomo area to sell FlipFlasks.
The men have been looking for musical artists, many of whom Weber knows through his speaker store, to sell the shoes at concerts or endorse them on-stage.
Plans are in place to develop FlipFlasks for women, possibly an all-black style.
Other styles of shoes could also await if the sandals sell well enough, Rayl and Weber said.
“We thought it might be funny to do a high heel where you drink from the heel,” Rayl said.
The FlipFlask enterprise will remain a side project for now, both men said.
But for Weber, it has been a rejuvenating change from the speaker business he has worked in for more than a decade.
“I’m reinvigorated,” he said. “It’s like I felt 15 years ago when I started in the speaker business. I thought ‘Is this actually going to work?’”
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@