We at Edible Baja Arizona are excited to introduce you to Jeff Isaac, our new Director of Sales. With seven years of print sales experience in the Pacific Northwest, Jeff is ready to create relationships with local business owners in Baja Arizona. We sat down with him to ask about his upbringing, favorite foods, and the best part of his job.
You’re not originally from Tucson. Where are you from?
Well, (I was) born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. My dad was at one of the Army colleges there at the time. I guess I don’t have a hometown necessarily. Through age 18, I lived in eight different places: Kansas, Oklahoma, Germany, Georgia, Pennsylvania, the D.C. area, South Carolina, and then Southeast Virginia, all before I graduated high school. And I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for the last 26 years; I went to college in Spokane and then moved over to the Tacoma/Seattle area and was there for about 20 years.
What brought you to the Pacific Northwest?
My dad’s final assignment in the Army (he was in the Army for 30 years) was at Fort Lewis, which is just south of Seattle. He grew up in Spokane, and his younger sister went to college at Whitworth (University) in Spokane. And so, my senior year (of high school), knowing that we were moving out there, my dad and I took a week and looked at six or seven different colleges there. Having the connection with my aunt, I ended up going to school at Whitworth. So, my parents were there, but that’s how I ended up in the Pacific Northwest.
Did your parents cook? Did food play a large part in your childhood?
They did. My mom was a good cook, but I wouldn’t say food was more of a part of our everyday life than anybody else’s. We didn’t have any chefs in the family or anything like that. I was a very picky eater as a kid, so I was not willing to take, as we call it with our daughter now, “adventure bites.” I was very unwilling to do that and was very stubborn about it, so if it wasn’t macaroni and cheese, a burger, pizza, steak, or if it was a yucky green thing, I wouldn’t eat it. I would eat canned green beans and canned peas and salad with Thousand Island Dressing. So, I did eat some (vegetables), but it was pretty limited.
I was probably 9 or 10 when we got our first microwave, so T.V. dinners were becoming more prevalent. We didn’t eat a lot of fast food, but every once in a while we would for convenience. But it’s pretty interesting comparing that to now, and I think part of that is that I have both a wife and daughter that have food allergies. And so, while I can eat pretty much whatever and it doesn’t affect me, their food allergies I think have created a much healthier food environment in my house, you know because we don’t eat just whatever. My wife wants to be healthy anyway (because) my dad’s side of the family has a history of heart disease.
Did you grow out of being picky?
Yes. In college was when I started to broaden my horizons. In the dining hall at dinner, they had a few choices, and you were limited to that and of course I didn’t have the money to get takeout pizza all the time, so I kind of had to eat what was there, and that forced me to try some new things. And seafood, they have a lot of that, especially on the west side of Washington near the water, and so I was able to try some more of that and realized, oh my gosh, there’s more good stuff to eat. So yeah, I was probably 18, 19 when I started to open up. I’m very glad that my daughter didn’t inherit that pickiness. You know, she doesn’t like everything but she’s willing to give it a try.
Do you have a favorite food that you like to eat?
If it was a last meal kind of thing, it would be a steak and a baked potato with some nice fresh green beans or asparagus or something like that, and a nice glass of red wine. That would be my go-to.
As a family, we love Mexican food. (In Tucson) we’ve been to Guadalajara Grill and have had good experiences. There’s a place up in Oro Valley called Carlota’s that has good food. I would say probably the best experience we’ve had was at Café Poca Cosa. My wife’s birthday was in June, so we all—my mom, dad, my family, aunt and uncle—went to Poca Cosa. It was so cool, I was just blown away that (Chef Suzana) figures out what’s available at the farmers’ market and does lunch and dinner brand new every day with what’s available. My dad and I both got the sampler, so you get three different entrées; well, he and I didn’t have any of the same entrées. Which, again, just blew my mind that we’re having the same dish but nothing was the same. Our server was fantastic, and Suzana came over to the table to say hi. So, just the personal touch was neat.
More than just being a sales person, it’s trying to come up with some sales tools, and then even more long-term trying to build a sales department. So, you know maybe once we get to the place where we can bring people in to have a sales department, having a training schedule and structure for those people. I think it’s developing some of those things and then potentially leading a team of sales people. My experience comes from that overall lifestyle magazine feel, so just bringing some of that experience and hopefully wisdom here. So selling, but also developing a sales department and team.
You’ve been in print sales for seven years. What’s your favorite part of the job?
Really the relationships with clients that I’ve been able to generate and to nurture. I think in any sales job, at least from my experience, that what creates the longevity in partnerships and long-term commitments and campaigns from people, is to build trust with them.
Once you get past that initial awkwardness (of cold calling) and get to the place where you’re building relationships, I try to serve people. It’s one thing to go sell a business owner an ad, but beyond that, what can I do to help serve what you’re trying to do? Is it to show up at an event with magazines to support you? Is it creating a social media campaign? How can we serve you?
One of the cool things we do here (at Edible Baja Arizona) is that it’s a locally owned magazine and we’re all about promoting locally owned businesses and being a part of the community. All of us live and work here, so when there’s money brought in here that we’re spending, it’s staying in the community.