Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics May/June 2015

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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Page 22 of 59

Martin Wine Cellar May/June 2015 • Beverage Dynamics 23 Cellar Gift Department. Cedric believes that the acquisition of the warehouse secured the company's future success. "My father always believed that you needed to have more product in the back. You always needed to keep everything in stock so you wouldn't run out, or else your customers would look elsewhere," he says. Another concept that kept Martin Wine Cellar doing well even during the slower summer retail months was the cre- ation of Once Upon a Vine, an annual event held in City Park. Launched in 1994, the event was designed to be the premiere wine tasting event in New Orleans, showcasing the company's vast wine portfolio and various catering offerings. Wine tasting festivals weren't very common at that time, and the Martins took pride in knowing that their event was one of the first of its kind. A CHALLENGING DECADE The 2000s brought additional changes to Martin Wine Cel- lar, both in terms of growth and loss. The Martins expanded the Metairie store location to its current 12,000 square feet of space. Less than two years later, the family mourned the loss of their patriarch, David, who died of Parkinson's disease. Cedric took over as the head of the company and was the one to oversee the events that unfolded after August 29, 2005: the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. While many residents of New Orleans chose to flee the city, Cedric remained in town. He managed to arrive at the Baronne Street store right when the levees broke--unbeknownst to him, as all forms of communication were out. Cedric opened the store to share water and ice with his neighbors, and then went home for three days. Upon returning to the store the follow- ing Tuesday, Cedric discovered that the store had been looted and was submerged in over two feet of water. Power wasn't restored to the area for six weeks, and the Baronne Street store was completely destroyed. Additionally, many Martin Wine Cellar employees had left the area and were scattered around Louisiana. Both store lo- cations remained closed at first until the Metairie location was able to reopen in late September. By that time, many of the store's employees from both locations had returned to the area and were able to go back to work in Metairie. "The store became a place to eat, see friends and recon- nect with each other after everything we'd all been through," Cedric says. "Our employees' passion for wine rubbed off on our customers, and we were able to keep our business going." Quickly reopening the Baronne Street store wasn't an op- tion for the Martins, but they knew they needed to rebuild their business. They also wanted to make sure that all of their former employees had a place to work. In December 2005, the company opened a new store in Mandeville, followed by another store in Baton Rouge in January 2006. These locations were much smaller in size than the Bar- onne Street store, but they carried wine, spirits, beer, gour- met foods and gift baskets. Most importantly, they provided a steady income for many people and also helped rebuild the local business community, which suffered severe losses after the hurricane. In addition to opening the two new locations, Martin Wine Cellar continued to expand its business plan in other ways. The company began shipping products across the country in 2011, and now sells wine and gift baskets in 37 states. The Metairie store's bistro also expanded its hours and now offers dinner service five nights per week. And in 2014, the Martins finally reopened their original store on Baronne Street. The new 14,000-square-foot location features a 140-seat deli area in addition to a cheese counter and the traditional wine, spirit and liquor offerings. Starting over on Baronne Street brought with it a fresh new set of challenges. Many of Martin Wine Cellar's former cus- tomers have since moved out of the neighborhood, requiring the company to rebrand and remarket itself. So far, Cedric reports that business is doing well. "New Orleans is a great city to live in. There's a lot of oppor- tunity here, but there's also a lot of competition now that didn't exist before," he explains. "We have so many other restaurants in the area.. We're still tweaking the look of the store, but we've already seen a lot of growth, and we've only been open a few months. We're just getting started." Cedric credits the success of the company to the talented people who work for Martin Wine Cellar. While he hints that additional stores could pop up a few years down the road, Cedric says that for now the company is focused on getting to know its customers in the new market, providing the best possible service to encourage people to keep coming back. "In Louisiana, you can really buy liquor everywhere. It isn't as exclusive as in other states, and that's always presented a challenge for us," Cedric says. "But people don't want to drink the same wine every day. We can show them a lot of variety in both product and price point. We have quality products, too. We are proud to but a bottle in a customer's hand and say, 'You'll enjoy this,' because it's the truth." With a business model like that, it's safe to say Martin Wine Cellar will still be going strong for another 70 years--and then some. BD Cedric Martin, Laurie Calloway (CFO), David Gladden (CEO), Will Fauquier (GM), Jonathan Morgan (GM).

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