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From Weak to ‘Wow’: Deli Turns Wine Shop

by Mistina Picciano  ||   5 Comments

Val’s Deli was typical of the smallest, least remarkable of the countless delis found in Manhattan. The store occupied a tiny space crammed floor to ceiling with various sundries and grocery items.

Like so many other businesses, Val’s offered nothing special to distinguish it from the competition. The owners relied on its location to attract neighborhood customers.

This generic little deli operated for years in its unremarkable fashion, and everything was fine. Until real competition arrived on the same block and changed the deli game for this section of Midtown.

The writing on the wall

Some months ago, the Well Green Café opened up in a prime corner location. The brightly lit, spacious store offered a range of high-quality, healthy foods – from prepared and made-to-order options to fresh fruits, dairy products and natural packaged foods. Almost like a Whole Foods pit stop, without having to schlep across town to fight the crowds at Whole Foods.

Linda, the owner of Val’s Deli, realized that her humble deli couldn’t compete with the slick new competition. So she closed up shop, gutted and renovated the deli, and reinvented her store as an upscale wine shop.

From weak to ‘Wow’

The other night, I was walking home when I glanced across the street and saw the beautiful new shop. The space was so appealing that I had to learn more. That was when Jason, Linda’s nephew, told me the story behind the shop. (I hadn’t even noticed that Val’s Deli had disappeared.)

The first thing they did right was to open a shop that faced considerably less competition. While we had a few options to buy wine in the area, this new store filled a vacuum for residents in the immediate vicinity. (Convenience is critical in Manhattan.)

Fortunately, the owners didn’t stop there.

Jason explained that they didn’t carry the large labels found in a typical wine and liquor store. Instead, the store owners stocked wines from small vineyards that produced good wines at a good value.

As someone who’s still at the start of her wine education, this approach appealed to me. The proprietors took care of the research, and I could choose from a nice selection of wines at whatever price point suited my mood – or my wallet. I walked out with two well-balanced French wines ($12 and $15), as well as a gorgeous half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Merry Edwards, a winery in the Russian River Valley that my in-laws adore (a bit more).

The moral

Aunt Linda did two things right:

  • She quickly recognized the changing market conditions and adapted her own business.
  • Her new venture offers a unique value proposition that will help build a loyal client base. (I’m sold!)

Unfortunately, she stopped before choosing a cool name. The wine shop is known as 120 West 58th Street Wine & Liquor. I plan to mention this to Jason tonight at the wine tasting.

What changes are you experiencing in your marketplace? How can you readjust your strategy to surpass the competition?

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5 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    Thank you, Mistina, for the very nice article. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I hope that you find your way back into our shop again!

    PS – We were able to get our hands on the Merry Edwards Pinot, full size!!

  2. You’re most welcome. I’ll definitely be back. (That wine from Merry Edwards was phenomenal!)

  3. And I’m picking up a bottle or two of the full-size Pinot. Can’t wait!

  4. Glen says:

    How very strange. I read through several articles on the site and this one appealed to me because it told a story where the others shared information.

    I didn’t even realize it was a multiple author site until I checked back over the other articles..

    Anyways, there are lots of changes in my “marketplace”. The number of personal bloggers has diminished or have gone into hiding.
    My strategy is to explore other forms of media once my writing improves.

    But, the fact that I was drawn to comment on this particular post makes me feel like stories still attract readers. Well at least people like me,ha,ha..

  5. Ah, Glen. You have once again hit the proverbial nail on the head. Stories trump dull info every time. As Seth Godin says in All Marketers Are Liars, the secret to successful marketing lies the ability to spin a great story. (And on the back cover, he admits to lying in the title: marketers tell stories, while we lie to ourselves as consumers.)

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder of yet another reason why we should embrace the art of storytelling in everyday life.

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