With an eye for detail, a love for creativity and experience in financing and the hospitality business, Joann Adams recently decided to open a custom gift basket company, Buddy, Toots & Clutch, in the Napa Valley.
The new business offers customers the chance to get their hands on specialty products from the Napa area and from around the world.
“I think it is something that takes a little bit of thought, it takes a little bit of extra effort,” Adams said of sending specialty gift baskets as presents.
Adams is particularly promoting Buddy, Toots & Clutch to the real estate and business communities. She hopes that they order her baskets as a gift for their clients, “as a way of thanking somebody for their support.”
Adams said that, through her gift baskets, she is trying to promote business-to-business relationships.
After moving to California for a second time in 2001, Adams started working in St. Helena at Dean & DeLuca, a gourmet food retailer chain. At Dean & Deluca, Adams ran the catering department and said she was the “go-to person to do all the gift baskets.”
Once she started hearing positive feedback from customers and realized she really enjoyed the work, Adams decided to open up a workshop in her garage.
“The rest is kind of history,” said Adams.
The course of deciding what goes in the baskets is something that Adams tries to make as stress-free as possible.
“(Customers) tell me what they want to spend … they’ll describe what they want in the basket, and they’ll let me run with it,” said Adams, explaining the typical ordering process.
She points customers to her website for examples of her work. Among the specialty items that the baskets have are products from Greece, Italy and France.
Adams sells products that she personally uses, and she buys them from companies that have connections to her time living on the East Coast, such as an olive oil and a vinegar that she was introduced to while vacationing in Nantucket.
One of her favorite products that she uses in her baskets is Dr. Pete’s, a praline mustard glaze. “This was always a treat in our house while growing up in Pennsylvania,” said Adams of the sauce.
Adams said her baskets run anywhere between $45 and $500. She said that wine is the biggest variable when it comes to her baskets’ pricings.
“Even if I don’t put wine in (the baskets), I do one that has a colander, organic pasta and a great piece of Parmesan. I’ve got another one that highlights a mustard praline sauce that goes over brie and either gourmet crackers or a baguette,” Adams explained.
Although Adams said that her business “was never specifically a Napa Valley endeavor,” she does think it is a great place for her kind of business, and she recognizes the opportunity the valley holds.
“It’s catered to people in the Napa Valley who have the means and are used to exceptional food and are probably more inclined to spend money on this type of product,” Adams said.
Adams, who refers to herself as an “East Coast transplant,” came up with her company’s name after spending a summer on Nantucket Island.
There, Adams spent time with her young daughters and sister. Adams’ sister affectionately nicknamed her nieces “Buddy” and “Toots.” Adams then received a nickname of her own, “Clutch,” after being taught how to drive a stick shift.
Adams is the sole owner of her business, although she said that when her daughters come home to visit, they might help her out.
Doing everything by herself does not bother her, though. Especially when it comes to deliveries.
“I think it’s good to have that one-on-one and then get their reaction and make sure that everybody is satisfied,” said Adams of her customers.
She said she delivers anywhere from Napa to Calistoga and does not plan on doing any shipping.
Adams said she enjoys being her own boss. “Your work can be managed around your life instead of the other way around.”
With Buddy, Toots & Clutch as her full-time job, Adams said that her goal is for her company to be profitable.
“The reason that I started this company was a quality-of-life choice,” said Adams. “I love to do it, I’m good at it, it’s been very well received by my clients.”