By Seth Daniel
With some skepticism, but willing to give an opportunity, the Eight Streets Neighborhood Association voted unanimously on Tuesday night, June 12, at its meeting to send a letter of non-opposition for the proposed Wine Gallery store and coffee shop – now operating as Wine Riot on Tremont Street.
The potential owners of the new store – who are now operating the Wine Riot as consultants – said they believe they have the know how to make the controversial store a success. They detailed that they have the background in retail, whereas Wine Riot’s owners moved into retail from their thriving special events business.
“They felt that (special events) business would transfer,” said proposed owner Roman Fayngersh. “They tried and put a lot of effort and investment in it. It just didn’t work…I have managed liquor stores and I have managed coffee shops. The retail component and know-how is what I have.”
Neither has experience in owning a liquor store, they said.
The owners, Fayngersh and Marina Feldman, have licensed the Wine Gallery name from the other local store on Tremont Street, but said, if approved, they will not be associated with the existing store and that store won’t make operational decisions.
Feldman said it was just a business model that was different than a franchise.
She also said they want to put a gourmet coffee shop in the store to serve during the morning hours when people are not necessarily wanting to buy wine or liquor. However, that plan, known as Spark Coffee, would not come about until the liquor store is off the ground and operating.
“We want to do it right and execute on the first component and then begin the second component when we feel we have the first one down,” she said.
However, none of that can be accomplished until the owners can get the liquor license transferred from Wine Riot to their business, Wine Gallery. Until then, they are just consultants operating the existing store.
Wine Riot was a controversial story from the get-go, with many opposing the license because they felt that there were already enough liquor stores in the area. Wine Riot insisted that they could make a go of it and attract a new clientele with a younger vibe, in-store demonstrations and an extensive education piece. However, less than one year into the venture, it folded.
Eight Streets President Michael Almond, like most of the rest of the Association, wondered what it was that would differentiate the Wine Gallery from the failings of the Wine Riot.
“We like business and small business and we’re pro-business in our neighborhood association,” he said. “The thing is we don’t want to see businesses come and go. We want successful and stable businesses. The quality of due diligence and how different you’ll be and understand your customer base is what is central. What concerns a lot of people here is whether we will be back here in 12 months again.”
The new owners assured that they had a different, though similar, business model and that there is a need in the area for the store.
The Wine Gallery had a hearing before the Licensing Board, but that was put on hold until the owners could meet with the Eight Streets.
In the end, a unanimous vote of Eight Streets (about 15 or so people) voted to send a letter of non-opposition for the transfer of the liquor license.