This week we journeyed to the increasingly fashionable Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan to catch up with Peter Stilos, the buyer-manager at Grace Wines & Spirits; a great liquor store located on the corner of 10th avenue and 44th street, on the island’s west side.
Historically, Hell’s Kitchen was one of the worst slums in New York, but since the 1990s the area has seen a spectacular reversal of fortune, with dramatic rent rises, and becoming both gentrified and rather bohemian with one of the most eclectic demographics in the city – due in no small part to its proximity to Midtown, the Theatre District and Times Square. Yet, there is a strong sense of community here, and whether hipster or long-time native, Grace Wines is most definitely a popular neighborhood store, catering principally for residents of all shapes and sizes.
Since putting Brockmans on the shelf back in June 2014, Grace Wines is one of the top selling stores for the brand in the United States: so, we began by asking Peter why he thought that was.
The answer was very simple: support. Indeed, no other brand, wine or spirits, provides as many in-store consumer samplings, or makes regular visits to make sure everything is going well, offering regular staff updates and trainings. This close collaboration lies at the core of Brockmans philosophy and in terms of case sales pays off for both of us. As well as successful tastings, there is also a legacy element where Brockmans continues to sell well for the next two or three weeks afterwards – this reflects the fact that gin isn’t an impulse buy, but also we’re seeding into a local community.
Opening six years ago, the store has seen big changes in drink trends in the intervening years, with a general shift to Bourbon and American whiskies; and, more recently from vodka to other white spirits, gin included. Vodka is moving off menus across the city, and that trend is being matched in liquors stores too – with the exception of Tito’s, which is seemingly propping up the entire category. Some gins are up and some are down, but without Tito’s, gin is beating vodka in this store, and following a Brockmans tasting it shatters even that ceiling; something that would have incredible when Grace first opened its doors.
Winter months and weekends are the busiest, which is no surprise – but, the success of Brockmans across the year and within the white spirit range is testament to the relationship that we’ve built with this great store and a vindication that the brand’s attitude towards supporting accounts is working.
Grace Wines and Spirits is to be found at 610 10th Avenue, on the corner of 44th Street.