thomas catanese gift baskets


Thomas Catanese



The oldest recorded history of mankind appeared in caves 5500 years ago. In those caves were drawings of humans, animals, birds and symbols. One of these symbols was a basket being carried by a human being. Baskets were considered very important because they were used to carry food. Weavers made baskets and created the first gift giving container. Now, we fast forward to 1700 hundreds.
In the 1780's, European royalty would send baskets, hampers, and other foods and wines to friends and business associates within their circle of friends. The English hamper is the perfect example for Christmas greetings.
In the 1890's, when steamships traveled the Atlantic to the Continent, the very wealthy would send off bon voyage gifts to the piers in New York Harbor. The staterooms were very, very small so the basketeers in New York City would create very thin, but very tall gifts so they would not take up needed space in the small staterooms. Their bon voyage gifts were used as snacking foods on the long overseas trips. The baskets were wrapped in a fabric netting at the turn-of-the-century.
Cellophane is invented and it revolutionizes the gift basket business.
The world's first specialty food magazine was born in Chicago. The name of the magazine was Telefood. The editor decided to copy FTD and telegraph food baskets across the country by telegraph.
A Frenchman invented a shrinkable poultry bag for chickens. They got the film to shrink by dipping it in 400 degree boiling water. The French women would have nothing to do with it. It was not fresh. It was wrapped in plastic.
The Frenchman came to America and brought his new invention. It did not fly for almost 12 years. The reason was simple. Saran wrap was the packaging film of choice. Plus, there were no sealers on the market in 1950 that would seal shrink film.
The first International Fancy Food Show is held in New York at the Astor Hotel.
Another few years would pass before shrink film would again make itself known to the industry.
Harry and David began to put shrink film on their mail order baskets with a high temperature heat gun.
Tom Catanese was a retail florist, so he knew what you go through every day: retail is detail. He worked eight days a week. He decided he did not want to do this the rest of his life.
He attended his first International Fancy Food Show on the second floor of the old New York City Coliseum. The product that was introduced that year was chocolate covered ants. There were only 125 exhibitors at that time. He recalled saying, "this is where I want to be 30 years from now. I have to find a product that I can sell to the Fancy Food Retailers of America".
Tom saw a fruit basket demo that was using shrink film to wrap gifts. It was amazing. He purchased a roll and a heat gun for our shop. It was like magic!
He then realized that no one was selling to the small retailer on a national basis, so He said "Tom Catanese will appoint himself to that position." And, that's how he got into the Gift Basket and Shrink Packaging Business.
Tom exhibited at his first Philadelphia National Candy Show at the old Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia. There were only 77 exhibitors then. Since then he has exhibited at 250+ National Food, Confection & Gift Shows.

Catanese introduces a little black handheld sealer (crimper) to the industry. He found a little black handheld sealer that was made in Holland. It was only used for sealing poly bags. He purchased one and through trial and error, He made this little sealer do things it was not supposed to do. Others call it a little black crimper. He introduced this little black crimper to the industry in 1969.


He introduced the MagicWands to the industry. These 2 bag making devices are the backbone of the gift basket industry today because of their versatility. They revolutionized the gift basket industry. Florist magazine presented a 3-page story on Tom Catanese and shrink film for the florist, gift and fruit industry.
Tom tried to get into the International Fancy Food Show. Back then, it was a very tight group. "Not this year, they said." Again, he presented an application for membership and was refused.



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