Presidential ‘presence’

By on May 8, 2019

There’s no shortage of fascinating and unique citizens and business owners in the Lititz area.

Anthony Giannini checks all those boxes and more.

He owns and operates a peculiar, under-the-radar, web-based business — one you’d expect to be located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. Believe it or not, Giannini operates the White House Gift Shop at Copperfield Circle, Warwick Center.

Yes, that White House.

The iconic name, which is registered with the U.S. Patent Office, sells what you’d expect: presidentially-themed Christmas ornaments, apparel, coins, and other keepsakes; all which are shipped around the world via its website.

The company got a tremendous boost from free advertising last May — making news on NBC, BBC, CNN and more — for its rare coin offering that commemorated an event that never happened.
Demand for that coin, which celebrated the Trump-Kim Jong Un Summit which got canceled, ended up crashing the White House Gift Shop website. As sales soared, the business eventually needed more real estate to continue their operation.

Anthony Giannini operates the White House Gift Shop, which as the name suggests, sells what you’d expect: presidentially-themed Christmas ornaments, apparel, coins, and other keepsakes.

“We needed more space, so we took the next unit as it came up,” Giannini said of the company’s expansion. “Six months later, we took another unit.”

Currently, he rents the lion’s share of the street level suites at Warwick Center. He’s also the person in charge of Giannini Strategic Enterprises, the entity behind the gift shop.

The White House Gift Shop website offers eclectic and common items such as the “Across the Aisle Democratic & Republican Bistro Mug Set.”

There’s a President Barack Obama section featuring a set of five “2014 Rare Obama Signed Wood White House Easter Eggs” regularly $69 on sale for $49.

For $225, customers can order the 2016 White House Christmas ornament with “Powers of the President Series: The East Room Signing,” which depicts Obama at a “Historical Moment in Presidential History.”

There’s an Air Force One desk piece featuring a model of the famous jet in flight and a President Donald Trump series that features red MAGA hats, and special coins sets, including his “Order of the U.S. Space Force, Sixth Branch of Military.”

So how did it all start?

“I began my association with the White House Gift Shop in 2010 as a principal benefactor and strategic advisor,” Gianinni said. Growing up in Michigan, Giannini, who comes from a military background, would enter the Air Force, and served in the Vietnam War specializing in intelligence. After the war, he would further his education at Harvard.

Originally known as The White House Flower Fund, in 1946, by order of President Truman, the company’s name was changed to the White House Police Benefit Fund. Later, this entity would become known as The White House Gift Shop, eventually falling into the care of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division Fund.

It was basically a small service fund for members that would send flowers when some member of the force or someone in their family passed away.

Fast-forward to 1998 when the store went to an online-only presence and then to 2012 when Giannini takes over when volunteer members of the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division Fund could no longer oversee the gift shop.

Anthony Giannini is planning to open Tony G’s American Diner & Pizza Kitchen this summer at 18 Copperfield Circle, Lititz. The establishment will be a 50s style eatery with a Lititz theme. Photo by Cory Van Brookhoven

“I was honored when its 13 board members met in Washington and unanimously voted to transfer ownership of WHGS and its 73-year history to (Giannini Strategic),” he said. Then, in 2016, the continuation of The White House Gift Shop was assured when he was granted two exclusive trademarks by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“This to our knowledge was the first time in U.S. history that USTPO awarded trademarks based on a proven history with The White House itself,” he said. “Our trademarks were granted during the Administration of President Barack Obama without objection.”

Giannini states that one rewarding aspect of overseeing the ‘only original official’ White House Gift Shop in U.S. history (now online) is the joy he feels of creating and sharing these patriotic-themed gifts to people all around the world.

“For example, when we made the first United States and North Korea summit coin depicting President Donald J. Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un — which went globally viral and appeared on virtually every television station across the world — the outpouring of positive feelings from tens of thousands of American as well as South Korea citizens is a memory I will never forget,” he said.

Giannini tried to put things in historical perspective — as anything can happen in the world — evidenced by the fact that the original White House Gift Shop, established 1946 now resides in Warwick Township.

“Recall that for one day on Sept. 27, 1777, the capital of the United States was in Lancaster,” he said. “Yes, anything can happen.”

And a restaurant too …
Not one to rest on his laurels, Giannini also has a pair of eateries on the horizon, which he hopes to open this summer at Warwick Center.

First up is Tony G’s American Diner & Pizza Kitchen, which will take a spot at 18 Copperfield Circle, the former location of Capriccio’s.

Slated for July, the establishment will be a 50s style restaurant with a Lititz theme according to Giannini, who has been overseeing renovations and will manage the operation.

To him, the idea for the new business seemed like a no-brainer. He says that currently, that part of town doesn’t have a lot of food or ice cream choices.
His goal is to change that, and looks forward to giving back to Lititz in the process.

“We have nothing here on this corner,” he says. “So it seemed like a good opportunity from an entrepreneurial perspective. It was an excellent place for me to test concepts,” he said.

The upcoming business is also the result of his love and passion for cooking–something that his ancestors taught him as a boy.

“The restaurant is a natural outcome of the training my grandmothers gave me,” he said. Giannini then retrieved a 300-year old bowl once owned by one of his grandmothers.

“This is the bowl I learned to cook couscous in,” he said. “I was two years old. I made everything by hand with her. All of my childhood I was taught to cook, at the level of a chef. So by the time I was 16, I could do most things that most master degreed chefs from the CIA could do.”

In addition to Tony G’s, a cafe is also planned in the near future. He’d like to see it as a place where customers can relax and peruse a great selection of books. Their own brand of fresh-roasted coffee, as well as world-class pastries, are also planned. Giannini promises “a friendly environment, with a fantastically gracious staff.” “Then you walk to a 50s themed period,” he added about the two establishments which will be situated next to each other. Once these businesses open, the sky’s the limit given Gianinni’s drive, passion for good food, and track record of success. But despite all of this, he’s also interested in inspiring a new generation of culinary experts.

“What I really want to see is some talented, emerging culinary visionaries, who want to work in a place where they’re respected,” he said, in anticipation of the summer opening.

Citing Ray Bradbury as a personal mentor, the entrepreneur envisions great ideas and conversation evolving out of the space.

“I’d like to see a writer’s group there,” he said.

A White House Gift Shop outlet store is also in the works, and is planned to be launched in tandem with the restaurant this summer.

“The end unit will be a retail shop,” he added. “It will launch the same time that the restaurant does.”

“I want that to be a Lititz resource,” he added. “I want that to be a go-to place for tourists to Lititz and Lancaster County.”

Despite all of his future plans, at the epicenter of the business will always be the project he’s most proud of.

“The White House Gift Shop is the flagship operation,” he added. He also loves to give back to the area by supporting local law enforcement and other charitable causes.

“Everything I do comes from that framework of service,” Giannini says. “Community involvement is in the DNA of the business,” he added.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423. 

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