Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit has been called “…the most user-friendly wine shop in New York.” Bloomberg describes the wine store as cheery and gives it some love for layout and its staff’s advice. It has made Eater New York’s Where to Try Wine list. Owner Tom Geniesse has been on CNBC making recommendations for candy, wine, and spirit recommendations for a Halloween themed tasting.
Geniesse opened Bottlerocket’s doors back in 2002. He began it with a desire to improve the wine shopping experience for customers like himself. Today, he continues to innovate and seek out ways to better serve customers wherever they are at in their wine, whiskey, or other spirit journey. Geniesse shared a bit about what it takes to make it in the wine and spirit world.
Q: What inspired your decision to own a wine store in New York City?
A: I fell in love with wine when I was busy founding an e-learning company in Los Angeles. I found great stores and was eager to learn, but was personally frustrated that they didn’t do more to help me choose well. I decided to stop grumbling about it and see if I could come up with a better design. Bottlerocket was born.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the wine industry since you opened Bottlerocket in 2002?
A: Many more smart, talented and passionate people have entered the industry, increasing competition. Consumers are more adventurous, which is fantastic. Alternative packaging is exploding.
Q: Why did you choose to merchandise your store and your store’s website by theme?
A: Not everyone is a wine expert, but everyone knows why they need wine. You know what you’re cooking for dinner, or who you are giving a gift to. We designed a customer experience that is intuitive, fun and useful. Then we patented it!
Q: You provide your customers wine notes with every bottle they purchase. Why did you feel it was important? How do you think it’s impacted your business?
A: From day one we have given every customer a set of notes on every bottle they buy. Our secret mission is to educate our customers and help them build confidence. That growth and education happens when a person has the wine in a glass in front of them and the information alongside. Knowledge, one bottle at a time.
Q: What prompted your desire to email out the wine notes instead of printing them in your wine store?
A: The environment and convenience. It’s magic to buy a bottle and have the receipt and our notes land in your inbox seconds later. How cool is that? And think of the paper we are not wasting, and the toner, and time for everything to print!
Q: What role does software and technology play in your wine store?
A: PayGo, with our custom approach, is key to the experience we offer and key to our success. Our website is getting better, stronger, faster. And we have been working with The Mars Agency and Amazon Alexa to use with voice as an assistant to help customers choose a whiskey. At Bottlerocket, we like to lead not follow.
Q: How do you see the wine store business evolving?
A: Everyone wonders what the end game is in the Amazonification of retail. I’m not sure anyone really knows. But I think a lot of mediocre businesses will die. And I also think that businesses that offer a unique, high touch, high value service will thrive into the future.
Q: What have the keys to your success been?
A: Thinking from the point of view of a customer. Creativity. Perseverance. And a great team!
Q: Now that you’ve been running a successful wine store for 16 years, what advice would you give?
A: Call me. We might need another Bottlerocket where you live!