Doubling Up in Montreal

MONTREAL — When it came time for Morris Shirazi, chairman and chief executive officer of Aero Toy Store, a provider of solutions for purchasing, financing, and modifying new and pre-owned aircraft, and his son Ben Shirazi, chief operating officer, to expand their Fort Lauderdale-based business, the decision to come here to Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL) was made easy — the Shirazis were coming home. Both Morris and Ben spent much time in Montreal before establishing Aero Toy Store’s headquarters in Florida. Now, after some two years with two locations, the Shirazis look toward growth with a 55,000-square foot addition to their facility at Montreal.

Morris Shirazi started his career as a salesman for a Chrysler dealership in Montreal, where he quickly moved on to start his own wholesale automobile operation and then relocated to Florida where he started Auto Toy Store, an exotic, luxury, and collectible car dealership, in 1985.

In 1993, Morris Shirazi established Aero Toy Store as a side business to his already successful Auto Toy Store. Shirazi later sold Auto Toy Store to focus on buying and selling private and corporate business jets. Aero Toy Store touts lifetime aircraft sales of some $2 billion and is an exclusive provider of Pininfarina Edition aircraft which are styled and handcrafted by artisans.

The company has an aircraft inventory which includes Citation, Hawker, Lear, Falcon, Challenger, Gulfstream, and Global Express aircraft.
Aero Toy Store also operates Global Jet Charters, a private charter flight company which includes a Global 5000, a Lear 60, and a Challenger 601-3A in its fleet, as well as aircraft time ownership company, SmartJets.

At Aero Toy Store’s headquarters at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), the company operates a 200,000-square foot terminal with a full-service fixed base operation, 24-hour facilities, aircraft sales, avionics, maintenance, catering services, rental car services, and customs assistance.

Montreal’s Promise leads to expansion
Not only is Montreal a good location because of the comfort of “coming home” for the Shirazis, but it’s also a good business move in the company’s view.

Steve Jaksi, director of operations at Aero Toy Store’s Montreal location, says Montreal is the ideal spot to capture European traffic because of its location between Europe and the U.S. He says 90 percent of the mid-range aircraft have to stop in Montreal.

Aero Toy Store is currently 28 months into its 45-year lease with Aeroports De Montreal (ADM) and thus far business is good, says Jaksi. “We’ve gone from pumping 600,000 liters a year to six million liters a year in 28 months,” he says.

In late July, construction began of a 55,000-square foot addition to the existing 200,000 square feet Aero Toy Store currently occupies at Trudeau International Airport. The full-service fixed base operation will add a 40,000-square foot hangar as well as a 15,000-square foot completions center to meet growing demand.

“We’ve gotten to the point where our customer base continues growing and we have to go to that next level that is going to help us extend the services we can give to our customers,” Jaksi says of the addition.

“It will be a one-stop-shopping type of principal when you come here. If you don’t like the interior of your aircraft, we’re not going to send it out. We’ll be able to take care of it right here in the Montreal area and take advantage of local woodworkers and artisans.”

Jaksi describes the ease of working with a business-savvy Aeroports de Montreal (ADM) in contrast to a less-than-lenient government agency which previously operated the airport. [In 1992, Aeroports de Montreal took over the management, operation, and development of the city’s two airports under a long-term lease, as part of the Government of Canada’s initiative to divest itself of daily operations of the nation’s airports.

“The people that are heading ADM are good and sensible,” he says. “They know what it means to have to go out and borrow money to build on a piece of land that you don’t own. At least ADM responds to your request and listens to you, which is different than dealing with a government agency.”

Future Growth: vancouver a possibility
While there are no immediate plans to expand the business with a new location, COO Shirazi won’t rule out the possibility of moving into Western Canada.

“We’re always exploring new ventures, but we’re looking to further development and focus on current facilities,” he says. Shirazi also suggests that an operation in Vancouver may not be too far off in the future, but suggests such growth will be taken with a measured approach.

“We’re not looking at expanding in many facilities all at one time; we’re looking at building each facility we have to be the best in its class — then we’ll continue to expand in a new facility once that is done,” Shirazi says.

“It is imperative to us that when a customer is coming in on a private aircraft, we believe that everything needs to be to the highest standards. For us, the service really is the most important part.”

“Customers need to see that we’re there not only out to grab their money, but they want to see that you’re investing, that you’re in it for the long term,” Jaksi says. “They want to know you’re not going to walk away in six months … We look at ourselves as a brand more than anything. We’ll take care of our customer from start to finish and throughout the way.”

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Former associate editor David Mantey and contributing editor Jodi Richards contributed to this report.

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