This is one of several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.
As we come to the conclusion of our first full month in business and enter our sixth week of operation, our store has had a week of ups and downs.
Last week we had tow special tastings, both with winery principals. Our Tuesday tasting went very well and was well attended (for the short notice and considering we are new), while our Thursday event was a great chance to get to know Brent Shortridge better, but Jan and I were basically the only ones there. The lesson from these two events, do not assume anything. I had thought Tuesday would be the dud and clearly I was wrong.
That aside, we still had our best week yet! We had a number of people venture in on Saturday to sample from the dozen or so bottles that were open. Sales throughout the week were strong; all in all it was an encouraging week.
That said I am still slogging through the checks of inventory and pricing in our POS system and our Quickbooks is not yet integrated with the POS system. Aggravation levels are diminishing as more aspects of the business run smoothly and I think we will be in good shape by the time that the holidays get into over drive.
As I said with my last post none of this would be possible without the customers who have both found us for the first time and those who I have known for years. When this business is a success, I can claim some credit, but more will go to our customers, my wife, and all of the others who have helped to get this store off of the ground.
This is the one of several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David’s posts will appear on Wednesdays.
We finally got the store open to the public and made our first sale. It should be great and we should be able to relax and just sell wine, right? Not so fast! There were a few glitches upon opening.
We opened our door with a fancy point-of-sale (POS) computerized register that turned out to be non-operational. That means no inventory control, no fancy receipts, no tracking customer sales history. This made life harder since much of the wine sold in the first several weeks was not tracked and I only noticed sales after several bottles of a wine had been sold. Although this was a major headache and somewhat embarrassing, it was not the only glitch at opening.
We had been so busy just getting the store set up that we hadn’t remembered simple things like bags for our customers to carry the wine home. We also had not done anything about wine accessories. It took about a week after opening for me to find a source for the bags, and then another week or so before I got the wine accessories ordered. But the store was finally beginning to reflect what I’d envisioned.
What more could we have to worry about? Now we can sit back and sell wine! Well, now that we have our working POS system, we still have to proof the nearly seven hundred listings to correct any mistakes in the transfer of data and put in pricing where it was left out. We also have a weekly task of selecting the theme of the Friday wine tasting, the complementary food, and then getting the whole thing in place on Friday. It is a lot of work and yes, some of the tasks will remain as part of our weekly list of tasks, but eventually it will become easier as it becomes part of our routine.
Glitches aside, I have been pleasantly surprised with the response of the neighborhood surrounding our store. We have made sales every day we have been open and better than half of those have been to new customers. We have even had new repeat customers. All of this in just three weeks! Are we making money yet? Certainly not, but we do have decent cash flow for a brand-new business. Under the circumstances (economy and new business), we are doing better than anyone would have expected.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have patronized our new venture and encourage those who love interesting wines to come and check us out.
This is the one several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.
In my last post, I stopped right as we had applied for our license and had started contacting wine distributors.
The fun was really beginning. We were tasting wine in preparation for stocking the store. I had already ordered our wine racks and since they had been delayed by several weeks, I figured we would be delayed in getting things going. Well, we got the liquor license in the mail just a couple of weeks after the final hoop had been jumped, surprise!
The racks are still not here we have just begun sampling wine. The holiday season is still several months away, so no sweat. We also needed to come up with a logo, cards and a sign. We had decided on a name: the building sits right across the street from Mt Washington’s iconic art deco water tower, so of course we should call our store Water Tower Fine Wines. We contacted a graphic designer, who proposed several concepts and we gave our input. It took three more visits and three weeks until they finally produced the drawing that I had asked for after the first meeting. We had our logo and business card design.
The fun part was actually anything but … I am not saying that sampling all of those wines was not fun, in fact, that part was great. The hard part was the the decisions I had to make. After all, I couldn't buy every wine I liked! The obvious reason, money, was a factor, but space was also a major piece of the puzzle. I had planned to open with 400-500 wines, and I really tried to stay within that number, but there were just too many good wines out there and some of the distributors got to me after I had already filled the bulk of my slots. I could not help myself, I had to buy more. The remaining distributors got fewer orders and yes there are wines I wanted to buy, but did not. I hope to bring some of them in the future. Even with a little self restraint, I still ended up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 wines.
I ordered the wines and set the deliveries for the week before we planned to open. I figured this would be plenty of time. Wrong. We had scheduled to host a fundraiser at our house the Sunday before we were to open. Just a little more pressure, no problem.
The deliveries were a special joy all to themselves. I had ordered three bottles of each wine selected, so there were many split cases with three bottles of four different wines each. Each and every bottle needs to be checked in and at least one of the distributors could not seem to get all three bottles of the same wine in one case! At least when this wine came in the salesman came in and helped check the wine in.
Once all the wine was in the store, we had to hand price every bottle, plan out the racks and place the wines. I had rack space for about 480 different wines and almost seven hundred different wines. So I had to run out and get metal racks to hold the overflow. We were working to get wines shelved until we opened our doors and actually had four cases still not priced or on display.
During our first week being open, we have had multiple sales each day even though we have done no promotion. Our computerized cash register and inventory system is still at least a week away from being installed, but we have been able limp along with a cash register left by the previous owners. This has a lot of work, more than I anticipated at the outset. Having to select a large number of wines at once to stock a store is difficult. I ended up caving to my desire to have a lot of neat wines and thus have more wine in the store than I had intended. Hopefully our customers appreciate the unique selection.
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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