MEET THE PRESIDENT: MARTIN McCLANAN
With professional experience in marketing and an insatiable passion for food and fine wine, Martin McClanan recently joined GiftTree as our new President. We sat down with Martin to gain some insight on his outlook for GiftTree, what gives him inspiration, and his expertise on the art of giving the perfect gift.
What brought you to GiftTree? Tell us a little about your journey into the professional world of food & wine gifts.
I was lucky enough to work at an early pioneer restaurant in college called The Trellis in Williamsburg, VA. There I learned about the importance of top-quality ingredients, and started to learn about wine from a very passionate group of people. I was so inspired by them that I decided to chart my career course into the wine business. I’ll always be grateful to Tom Powers, Marcel Desaulnier and John Curtis for teaching me about the joys and importance of real food and good wine.
From there, I’ve had the good fortune of living and working in some great food towns including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and now Portland, OR, which continues to inspire me. My big project right now outside of work is as a board member of the James Beard Public Market in Portland. We are working to design, fund and build a permanent 7-day a week market in Portland as the epicenter of the Oregon/Washington food system.
What drives and inspires you most about GiftTree?
Gift giving is the most fun part of e-commerce. If you can make it possible for someone to deliver the perfect gift, your customers will be ecstatic. And that makes it easy to get excited about helping people show loved ones and the important people in their lives just how much they care.
What do you see in store for the exciting future of GiftTree?
GiftTree is perfectly positioned to become the “go to” place for the best online gifts. While many businesses are busy trying to commoditize retail, I firmly believe there is an important role for fine specialty retailers to pay attention to the details. As we continue to refine our assortment, build our reputation and expand our presence, I’m confident we will become known by most Americans in the next few years as one of the best places for gifts.
Although they are few, GiftTree does have some competitors in the luxury food and wine gift industry. What do you think sets us apart from the competition?
Without naming names, we deliver a materially better product than our mass-market competitors. In the luxury categories, our ability to deliver beautiful, tasteful, personalized gifts quickly from a brand you can be proud to associate yourself with is second to none. We are relentlessly focused on keeping these competitive advantages.
What would you say is GiftTree’s philosophy when it comes to the line of gifts that we offer?
Make the catalog and online gift experience so good that it inspires an immediate and heartfelt “thank you.”
What are some of your favorite gifts offered by GiftTree?
The Imperial Cured Meat and Cheese Collection. I’m a huge fan of Jamon Iberico [Spanish Acorn-Fed Ham] and I love telling people about it. I also love the simplicity of any of the luxury wines sold in our exclusive Burlwood Box. It is simple, elegant and never ceases to make a great impression. In the non-food world, I think the Organic Spa Basket is a surefire hit for spa lovers in your life.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone who’s looking for the perfect gift?
Gifts are about connecting with another person. Think about adjectives that describe them: food lover, passionate, busy, caring, under appreciated – whatever the thought may be. As you shop, try to connect to a positive thought about that person, or try to extend sincerity that turns something like sympathy into a message of assurance. It is truly the thought that counts, and it is reinforced when they receive a thoughtful gift.
When do you look for in giving a bottle of wine as a gift?
For people I know well, I try to choose a wine in a varietal type that I know they enjoy, such as Cabernet or Pinot Noir. I like to give something that is delicious, but something they may not have tried before. For people I don’t know as well, I’ll seek out a better-known name that I’m pretty confident they will be familiar with. I’ll often try refer to the wine in my gift note as well, saying something like…”Happy Birthday from Martin McClanan and Joseph Phelps!”
And finally, it’s your last meal on Earth – what dish would it be, and what wine would you pair it with?
A few slivers of Pata Negra, A large pile of Morel mushrooms sautéed with ramps, Thomas Keller’s Duck Confit and Marcel Desaulnier’s Death by Chocolate topped with some fresh Mt. Hood Strawberries. Serve it up with a Magnum 1959 Richebourg – Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and a large table of family and friends. Ask me tomorrow and again next year, and I’ll enjoy dreaming about this meal again with whatever new culinary adventures have tickled my taste buds.