The cool and breezy August evening didn’t stop Yakima’s John Gorman from playing the consummate host to a group of business associates he’d invited to his Yakima home for dinner last summer. Folks had traveled from Washington, D.C., Singapore, Malaysia and Katmandu just to enjoy his hospitality — which speaks volumes about the man.
As senior director of sales for John I. Haas Co., Gorman, 69, has spent his entire career working in the brewing and hop industry — and traveling around the world. Haas is a sister company of the Barth Hass Group, the largest supplier of hops and hop products in the brewing industry.
But he loves his hometown so much that when he’s on business trips he takes on the unofficial role of goodwill ambassador, making sure to show photos of the Yakima Valley and extolling the virtues of Eastern Washington.
Gorman’s the guy you see chatting with friends at the local coffee shop one day, and the next he’s on an international flight to almost anywhere in North America, Europe or Southeast Asia. His territory is global, giving him a chance to make friends in the farthest reaches of the world.
His trips are also filled with adventure.
In Katmandu, Nepal, where Gorman does business with Mount Everest Brewery, he has endured rolling electrical blackouts, wild jungle animals and 105 degree temperatures — all part of the Katmandu experience. During his first trip, in March 2008, he quickly learned the pitfalls of picking a hotel off the Internet, finding himself in less than one-star accommodations. Today he stays at Nepal’s Yak and Yeti Hotel, and although that might conjure visions of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the property was a favorite of the famous explorer Sir Edmund Hilary.
On that first visit to Katmandu, Gorman also met Shrestha Shanta, managing director of Mount Everest Brewery, when Shanta picked him up for the 18-minute flight (that’s six hours by car) to the brewery. Shanta’s first words: “I must treat you like a god. That’s my duty.” Overwhelmed by his client’s declaration, Gorman has attempted to return the favor ever since.
“I love the business, and along the way customers have become friends.” he said.
“I try to learn everything about a culture before I go there,” Gorman explained. That might be a lesson learned from a trip to Singapore, when Gorman handed out travel alarm clocks as gifts. After the presentation, the organization’s supervisor thanked Gorman, but said in his culture, “When you give a clock, you’re waiting for their death.”
A 1964 graduate of Boston College with a B.A. in English and History, Gorman’s no stranger to the beer business. His father worked as sales manager for the Schaefer Brewing Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y. After a bit of gallivanting after college, Gorman followed in his dad’s footsteps, apprenticing to become a brewmaster.
Working in the field, he learned the industry inside and out. His gift for gab, along with a knack for making friends, helped him realize that sales was his talent. But with sales comes travel, and Gorman explained, “I was putting 1,500 miles a week traveling around five states and living in hotels. I was so regimented that on Monday I’d leave and not come back until Friday.”
Although his schedule was taxing, Gorman loved every minute, since it allowed him to meet new people all over the Northeast. “The brewery industry … people were wonderful.” Because of his many contacts, Gorman eventually met the owners of Western Hop Co. of Yakima, and they offered him a job in 1983. He quickly flew his family to Yakima and it was love at first sight. After a few years, he moved his family to Wisconsin to take the position of vice president of sales for the Schreier Malting Co., now Cargill Malt.
“But I never stopped dreaming about Yakima,” Gorman admitted.
Fortunately in 1988 a job with Haas brought Gorman, his wife and his two children to the Yakima Valley for good.
Because of his frequent travels, Gorman treasures the time spent at his Yakima home with his wife, Patsy. In fact, he loves it so much that he turned even an unfortunate event into a positive: When his house was burglarized 22 years ago, instead of ranting, he quickly joined the Yakima Police Department as a reserve officer. He has patrolled the Yakima streets during his free time since then, recently retiring as a lieutenant. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing that difficult job after jetting around the world all week, but John Gorman makes it look easy.