This is the first of several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.
Last week my wife and I realized a portion of a dream we have nursed for the past ten years or so. We opened our very own wine store! If you had asked me ten years ago what it would be like to accomplish this I would have said just order the wine, load up the racks and open your doors. I probably would have said the same thing as recently as 4 months ago. Now that we have done it, I can say that it is far from that easy and some of the tasks that I thought would be easiest turned out to be the hardest.
We started our journey roughly four months ago, after an attempt to buy an existing wine store fell through. Our first hurdle was finding a location. We had several ideas and contacted a real estate agent who investigated several properties, which found were either not available or way too expensive. The agent made several suggestions none of which appealed to us. Then my wife suggested we investigate a building five minutes from our home, which had been empty for several months. The building had lots of charm and was located in near the Mt Washington business district. It had off street parking, a small commercial kitchen and spaces perfectly suited for a retail store and a wine bar. It was perfect.
We started negotiations and quickly came to an impasse, as the owner was unwilling to budge much on price. We had several choices at this point: we could start looking again or we could meet his price. We spent a week or so looking at several other properties in the area, but found nothing as suitable and ready to go as the building on which we had made the offer. We decided that it would make sense to spend a little more money than we had intended so that we could be open in time for the holiday season. We felt that since so little needed to be done to the building in Mt Washington, we would save money in the long run, by not having to do many improvements and being able to open sooner. We were right on the second point anyway. The building, which we ended up buying, had a few warts. It needed a new roof and box gutters, cha ching! It needed new heating and cooling, cha ching!
The next challenge was transferring the liquor license from its previous owner. There were many hoops to jump through, not mention the hefty check to purchase the license itself and the fee to the attorney who brokered the deal. We also had pre-inspections by the health department (mostly because the license we were buying was a restaurant license), the building department, the police and last but not least, liquor control. We survived all of these with only a few scrapes. We had a few minor tasks we had to get done before final inspection. A couple of weeks later, we were ready and scheduled the follow-up inspections, which we passed with flying colors. Hooray! Now we had to wait for Columbus to process the transfer and mail us the license. We thought this might take several weeks and began making contact with the various wine distributors in anticipation of getting our license.
Tune in next Wednesday for the process involved in selecting the wines.
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