I worked in the wine industry for quite a long time and have a very large spot in my heart for it. After checking to see how friends and colleagues did, I started seeing just how bad the damage was. Simply heart breaking; sales reps have been out of work for over a week now. For hourly workers it is bad; for wine/spirits sales people who work on commission, this is devastating. Especially now, this season is called OND (October-November-December) and it is typically their most lucrative. Most of the money made in the wine and spirits sector is made the last three months of the year.
Inventories at distributors have been lost, wine shops have been shuttered, and even if they were not, wine and spirits deliveries can’t make it to their stores. If you want a very honest, very good look into the effects of this disaster, take a few to read Barb’s Wine post on the State of NJ Wine Business. She states “this is catastrophic for my business as I only get paid when the wholesaler sells something! And 90% of my business comes from a wholesaler who will most likely be out of business for weeks. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll be shipping for Thanksgiving, but I’m not holding my breath! Although now would be a good time to review your marketing strategy and I am available for consultations.”
I reached out to a few people in the industry to get the story directly from them. They are shop owners, distributors, importers, brokers, and sales reps. Here’s what they told me about the effects of Sandy on their particular business:
We got hit pretty hard. At Dry Dock We got 9 feet of water in our basement and 3 and a half feet of water at ground level. We have had maybe half our inventory damaged by sandy. We have had an amazing amount of volunteers from Occupy sandy help us and we might be operational by mid week this week in a temp location (waiting for State Liquor Authority approval)
At Columbus Circle Wine it’s been a little crazy. Due to the dangling crane we have only been available in limited schedule and only for deliveries. Today was the first day we were able to open to full capacity.
The delivery of merchandise has obviously been an issue since most of the warehouses are jersey based and have been without power and some remain flooded.
Chris Desor, Founding Partner, Verity Wine Partners: We missed 2 days of shipping Monday and Tuesday last week so it affected us for sure. We acted quickly in good coordination with our warehouse and had really solid days of sales Wednesday to today. Many accounts are closed but those that are open have been really busy. The office was closed all week last week but we delivered Wednesday and have been since. There was no damage to our office or warehouse other than electrical outages, and we are pretty close to recovery. We are still dealing with sales people without power, customers closed and without power but things are returning to normal and hopefully by the end of this week will be back at 100 percent. We’re just glad that all of our staff is physically OK; but many have home damage and have been living with friends and family, myself included. I just got home Friday for the first time all week; and without heat and it being cold today I am back at a friend’s apartment this evening until heat is restored.
Jonas Mendoza, Wine Specialist/Certified Sommelier New York Vintners:
Our power was shut off until Saturday morning. Fortunately, there was no water damage to our store or our basement. We have an open house over the next two days to check in with our neighbors and local customers. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from our customers over the past week.
Giuseppe Capuano, Operations Manager Vias Imports Ltd:
Vias Imports Ltd. has not been able to ship New York and New Jersey orders since Monday. Our warehouse, located in South Kearney, has been without power since Tuesday and suffered flooding on its ground floor. They are attempting to get a generator in from out-of-state in order to get the warehouse up and going again. Our trucking company had its fleet flooded by the storm surge and is the process of renting trucks to be able to get our orders out once the warehouse is functional. In almost thirty years, Vias Imports has never had order processing stop for such an extensive period of time. We were lucky and none of our wine was damaged by the flood water, so there will be wine available once these infrastructure challenges are overcome. Our hats go off to the people at both Hanover and Fleetwood Forwarding, who are doing everything in their power to get things back on track as quickly as possible. We will let our clients know via email and social media when normal deliveries will resume.