Bye Bye Business: When Wine Shops Go By the Wayside

There is an adorable little wine shop I’ve enjoyed frequenting that is shuttering its doors after over a decade of successful operations and scores of happy, loyal customers. Don’t let the word ‘adorable’ fool you into thinking I mean quaint, or “nice try, considering.” Oh no. Their variety and selection is among the best you’ll find at any boutique wine shop. Wines are racked properly, lighting and humidity are just right, all wines are organized excellently, and there are just enough cute gifty items to make it unique without being too hokey. The owners really know their stuff and have a very impressive selection of both local and international wines.

I recently read that they were closing at the end of the month. The owners are retiring and closing their doors. My first thought was, How selfish. After building up a great little business that’s helped revive a retail district in a small city, they decide to put a cork in it (no pun intended whatsoever). 😉 No mentions of selling it to someone else. Just gone. Poof. All that work, investment, wine, sweat, and tears, down the drain. A crime, to say the least.

Now, catch me under slightly different circumstances, I would totally love to plunk down an offer to buy it and rescue it. I’d be like a wine warrior princess kneeling with a sword lifted overheard and a “Teach me everything you know, masters!” look about me. Your business is too important to too many people and the community to see it vanish after all your hard work.

Unfortunately, and this may be what they ran into, who’s willing to put money into a retail business right now, even a successful one? If my work in the business community has taught me anything, it’s that retail stores are dying out right now, no thanks to things like Amazon, etc. It’s just a new reality that is forcing businesses to be more competitive and creative with how they sell their goods and services (however, restaurants are still opening, especially in areas zoned for restaurants and where other established restaurants have laid the foundation for a thriving restaurant district. Wine bars should be no exception).

However, if my work in the local business community has taught me anything, it’s also that there are more great resources out there to make business ownership possible than the average person is aware of. There are loans, grants, free advisors, business brokers, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. The resources are just sitting there, waiting to be used. And at this time right now, with small business creating a large percentage of jobs in America, we NEED for budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of these dynamite resources.

I don’t know. Perhaps the owners did explore these options. Maybe they are just so tired and ready to retire they said heck with it, and are just looking to liquidate and sell the space. Who knows.

Perhaps they don’t like the thought of selling their baby to another set of parents. It is theirs, after all; giving up your child must be hard to fathom. But wouldn’t you rather see your baby in the arms of safe, good, loving new parents? Even if they will raise it differently and it will turn out differently in part due to their nurture? Why would you let that stop you from fulfilling your legacy?

But I felt better when I read a letter to the editor on a blog. Someone wrote an urgent and frantic message, casting the net out into the community to see if anyone else wanted to go in with him on forming an LLC and saving this wine store. Thank you! I thought as I read to myself. I’m not the only one who is shocked to see this business go by the wayside. There is a critical mass out there who care dearly for this wine shop. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Under different circumstances, I would have loved to have bought this wine shop and started a chapter of my life having a successful wine business that means something to the community (especially when all the groundwork has been laid for you, what a break!). But I’m on a track right now I’m not ready to veer off of just yet. Does that mean I’m not entrepreneurial enough, not enough of a risk-taker? Maybe. You have to recognize and seize the opportunities when they come your way. Can’t overanalyze it too much. 

But it’s super disappointing to see a great creation vanish without a trace, simply because the owners are retiring. It’s a sin, really. I don’t know what to do about it, since it wasn’t a case of good-business-owners-who-did-great-and-tried-but-got-swallowed-live-by-recession-or-big-box-retailer-next-door. Because they still remained competitive… maybe not the lowest prices, but unparalleled selection, free tastings every Friday and Saturday, and the attention and familiarity that kept people coming back.

Not that it was the perfect business. I remember well a day where I went in, and, feeling like spending some money on nice wine, went in, moseyed around, and bought three lovely or curious bottles of wine for $60. A free tasting was happening next door, so I wandered over there with my brown bag of wine, sidled up to the bar and indicated I would like to do a tasting.

“We’re doing a fundraiser tasting today, so we’re asking for donations  today to raise money for blah blah blah,” one of the owners said. “Oh, that’s great,” I said. “But I haven’t got any cash on me.” I don’t remember his response very well after that, but he wasn’t about to pour me a tasting since I clearly wasn’t able to donate (in spite of spending a good chunk of change that day in his business!). A nice lady at the bar said, “Go ahead and serve her, I put in a $20, don’t you think that will cover a couple free tastings?” So I got my tasting, but don’t remember enjoying it very much, no thanks to Mr. Ebenezer Grumpypants. That one sour customer service incident definitely flavored the rest of my experience there. Some people just don’t get it. Customer service truly is everything.

With every business that closes, another one is getting ready to open up just on the next block. Fingers crossed that now we’ll get something even better than this great little place.

Here’s to a great example made, and to a new wine business legacy! May they do what you did best, wine shop!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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