Who: De Wine Spot
Where: Brooklyn, New York City
What we love about De Wine Spot:
De Wine Spot is a boutique wine store based in Brooklyn, which is home to a vast collection of small batch wines, spirits and sakes. Led by creative, Ilya Dorfman, the team at De Wine Spot are truly taking advantage of the ever changing world of technology. Through their candid blog, wine novices to wine experts are able to learn valuable life skills (such as how to saber champagne) and increase their confidence in wine-selecting. We caught up with co-founder Mischa to hear more about their experiences in running an omni-channel wine paradise.
How did your journey begin?
De Wine Spot is a project of two people who could not be more different. Ilya is a second generation oenophile. Ilya’s father has built an impressive wine distribution business from the scratch, which has been in business for the last 25 years. Being around wine all of his adult life, Ilya took over De Wine Spot in 2011 with hopes of transforming a hip, but lacking in direction store, into the local go-to place for wine and whiskey lovers. With an eye for affordable, high quality wines (especially small-batch wines) and hard-to-get bourbons, Ilya was able to guide De Wine Spot to prominence in the local community. In July of 2012, understanding the huge untapped business potential of online sales, Ilya discussed a possibility of expanding his business online with a friend, Michael Nagdimunov. The two friends had met years earlier playing soccer, but never discussed going into business together. However, with Michael’s background in marketing and sales combined with his love for technology, it was a match made in heaven. After five intense months of building an online home for the De Wine Spot, dewinespot.co launched (in beta release) on December 24th, 2012.
We are always looking to innovate and bring new helpful features to our customers. To that end, our website now offers a Bitcoin checkout option, in addition to more traditional payment choices (i.e. PayPal and credit cards).
We also try to pay back to the community that supports us. We donate to various charities and have free wine and bourbon tastings every Friday and Saturday nights. On those nights, the store resembles a hot spot with locals “pre-gaming” before their night out.
How would you describe your local community?
We get people from all walks of life in the door – from renowned artists that live in the neighborhood who know exactly what they want and fellow oenophiles that are always on the prowl for that “next big thing”, to wine newbies that rely on our recommendations. One thing they all have in common – they all live in Brooklyn, which is becoming not only the hipster capital of the world, but also a home to some of the best restaurants in the metro NYC area. It is safe to say that all of our clientele are experienced foodies.
How did you stumble upon Vend?
Back in 2012, we chose an e-commerce site as a platform to build our online store around. We knew that managing inventory in two places (online and our old POS system) would be very cumbersome. So that set us on the path of looking for alternatives. It was extremely important for us to be able to integrate our retail sales channel with the online one, especially when it came to inventory management. Moreover, the “perfect” POS system also needed to integrate with the one we already had.
Vend does all that pretty well and being a cloud based system it also provided us with an ability to always be on top of our business from anywhere in the world. It allows us to publish products to our website with a single push of a button right from the Vend system.
The features that it currently has, outstanding customer service and the flexibility that it allows saves us a lot of time. We estimate that it would take us an additional 8 hours a week just to enter our products into 2 different systems and then try to reconcile them every week. As it stands, Vend does this pretty well, and allows us to concentrate on what we do best instead – finding amazing wines and bourbons for our customers!
Being an omni-channel retailer, how do you keep your image consistent both online and offline?
Aesthetic is really important to us. All people that work in the store are of creative variety, and the store shows it. It was really designed with our community in mind – it has the hipster feel to it, with nice dark brown wooden wine cabinets taking up most of the space in the store.
Online, our minimalistic look was born out of the simple idea of making our products the stars of the site and bringing down the rest of the site “noise” down. The other major element of the site, the Wine Finder, was created to make the wine buying experience fun and hassle free. I believe it does just that, and we are still working on expanding it even further.
As far as the rest of our online presence goes, we really wanted to create a sense of community. We weren’t really interested in creating different social media accounts just for the sake of creating them. What we wanted to do is create an engaging and educational content that will hopefully help people become just as passionate about wine and hooch as we are. Different social channels then become tools with each suited best for specific tasks.
And it worked – since we launched the site, we have built a pretty loyal online customer base. People constantly call in to inquire about items from all over the country. This is the business that we would have never got before. Moreover, based on demand, we’ve had to create a distribution list for people that are looking for highly allocated (and, therefore, hard to find) bourbon and whiskeys. These folks are willing to pay premium for such items and are notified of availability ahead of general public.
Do you have any advice for new retailers?
Our advice is really comes down to the old adage – love what you do. Be a professional at what you do. Love your customers.
1. “Love what you do”. It’s hard running a business. It’s even harder when it’s a chore and not a passion. Having a passion for what you do radiates to people and customers around you and draws them to your store, not to mention that it makes the more mundane aspects of running a business more tolerable.
2. “Be a professional at what you do”. There is no room for dilettantes in your business. It’s pretty obvious that people that make crucial decisions better know what they are doing. It’s your job as a store owner to coach them and motivate them to the point they feel good about their contributions to both customers and to your business.
3. “Love Your Customers”. If you won’t, someone else will. It’s that simple. It really stems from knowing your customers first. Being a neighborhood store, we know most of our customers on a first name basis. When it comes to online sales, it’s our store policy to respond to customers inquiries within an hour of receiving them. People appreciate being taken care of. And we try to treat our customers the way we would like others to treat us.
If you do those three things, rewards will follow. Peeking into the future, we are working on a slew of new features, that we hope will make a hooch buying experience that much easier, more educational and fun. Stay tuned!
– Mischa Nagdimunov, Co-Founder and Technoenophile (Technophile + Oenophile), De Wine Spot
About Grace O'Hara
Grace is a Marketing Assistant at Vend and helps make cool things happen behind the scenes. She enjoys talking to incredible Vend retailers from around the world and making the world a better place with her side projects. You can get in touch with Grace by email or connect with her on Google+.