Wine Riot Owners Offer their Vision of Success to Abutters

May 19, 2017
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By Beth Treffeisen

New owners of the South End’s Wine Riot that will soon become Wine Gallery at 519 Tremont Street hope to take the store in a new direction beyond just selling high-end wines.

Their latest plans include selling top-tier coffee in the morning hours and incorporating chocolate, cheese and other grab and go food into their business model.

But this comes only a year after the previous owners of Wine Riot opened the shop despite community pushback.

During an abutters meeting held on Monday, May 15, at the South End branch of the Boston Public Library residents asked, if the previous owners did their market research and said that they will succeed, but then didn’t, what makes you feel like you will?

“I realize there is baggage in the room and we can’t speak to it,” said Roman Fayngersh a co-owner and the manager of the new store. “When Wine Riot opened up they created a beautiful store but they didn’t manage the execution correctly…all I can say is that we are not them.”

He said, after talking to people who come in and out of the store, they could see that there is a demand.

“Our goal is to meet the need of the community and we want to offer what the community wants because it is the only way to succeed,” said Marina Feldman a co-owner of the store.

The new owners went in front of the Boston Licensing board, Wednesday, May 17 to transfer the liquor license to them, at the same location. The hours of operation will remain the same.

As of right now, since the new owners still need to get licensing to serve coffee from the City, they plan on keeping the experience inside the store the same with a few added elements.

There will be a new craft beer section with 500 beers from around the world, a cheese and charcuterie section, scotch and bourbon display and even a chocolate display.

The major difference would be the addition of Spark Coffee, where they will transform the wine tasting area into a coffee bar with a communal table. In the evenings it will continue to serve as a wine tasting table. Coffee will range from cold brew to nitro cold brew to nitro lattes.

The owners have experimented and tried the coffee concept in the Wine Gallery in Brookline and seeing success they thought they would try to bring it to the South End.

There will be zero food prep happening at the premise. All the food that will be served will be prepackaged and brought to the store.

Once approved, they will open the store a few hours earlier to bring people in during the morning hours for the coffee bar only. No alcohol sales will be made until the afternoon.

There will also be about seven or eight tables to hang out with a laptop or to chat with friends.

But residents still shared concerns about the financial viability of the new business.

“It is not a complicated business but you can make a few mistakes and you won’t be able to succeed,” said Fayngersh. “There is a lot of bad blood after the last store failed,  but now I’m pushing for the opportunity afterwards…all I can say is that we are not them.”

In order to afford the high rent they are leasing part of their refrigerator space and store area to Choppler, an organically sourced dinner kit. Instead of having the kit delivered to the house, people who order it can opt to pick it up at a number of locations, including Wine Riot.

Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, customers buy the product online and no money transaction will take place at the store.

“The South End is an awesome place, as you all know because you live here, but the rent is astronomically high,” said Feldman. “Whether it is renting a fridge to Choppler or the coffee piece we need to make it happen.”

There will be no sale of nips, kegs, and tobacco or lottery tickets.

“We are putting over a lot of money and spending time away from out families to go into this business,” said Feldman. “We are not looking into doing an average liquor store.”

But Lydia Walshin pointed out that the South End is already saturated with a lot of coffee shops and liquor shops.

“I don’t want to be here every year because the previous owner failed,” said Walshin. “Just standing in front of your store and looking down the street I can see three coffee shops. I’m concerned because there is not enough of a need for more coffee.”

Right now there are already 13 liquor stores in the area and numerous coffee shops nearby such as Caffé Nero, Blackbird Doughnuts, Starbucks and South End Buttery.

The abutters left the meeting still concerned.

Ted Chaloner, an abutter, said “The city is supposed to support the residents and not the business owners.”

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