Our Level of Service is Our Signature
Apr 01, 2018 07:00AM
In a town as busy and popular as Annapolis, it takes a lot for a wine and spirits store to thrive for 27 years and Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits has done just that. I talked to Vice President, David Marberger, to get the behind-the-scenes story. I had also attended two superb events, which proved the high quality by which Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits operates.
Marberger summed it up, “Our business is committed to strengthening the local community and the economy. We have 33 employees in stable, high-wage jobs, some of whom have worked with us for almost as long as we have existed. Our longest tenured employee has been with us 23 years.”
Tell us about the history of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits and how you all came together in the business.
In 1991, after many years in the food wholesale industry, Chuck purchased an existing retail liquor store in Annapolis, Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits. Being the “chief cook and bottle washer” forced him to work long hours every day; he didn’t take a day off for three years. In 1994, I graduated from college with a hotel/restaurant management degree. Knowing that, ultimately, I wanted to work for myself instead of a corporate job, my wife and I decided to move to Annapolis and join Chuck in business. We have been working together ever since.
You’ve had how many expansions? What do you attribute that to?
Our original space was roughly 4,000 square feet and by 1997 we had outgrown that space. It just so happened that Total Craft moved out of our shopping center at the same time that we desperately needed more space. So, West Marine moved into Total Craft’s old spot and then we moved into what had been West Marine. That was our first expansion. Fast forward another 10 years and we were looking for more space again. So this time we took over what had been the China Buffet, which ironically was the original space our business started in.
Our two expansions came about from a couple of different factors. Simply put,
we were just doing enough business to warrant the need for the space, and second, the purchasing pattern of the goods we sell had changed, so we needed the additional space for inventory storage.
In a very competitive market, what sales tools do you use to keep dedicated customers?
Without a doubt, the single largest sales tool we have used to grow our business is our
bi-annual Customer Appreciation Sale. Since its inception in 1995, every sale just gets bigger and bigger. We draw customers from well outside of our local market and that puts our name and store in their minds when it comes to the purchase of adult beverages. But that alone is not all that we do, nor does it define how we do business. Our dedication to our customers, our desire to satisfy their needs and wants, and the level of service we provide are also paramount reasons for our loyal customers.
Upon your invitation, I attended the fabulous wine tasting sponsored by Sustainable Sonoma County. How did that come about? Tell us about Sonoma County wines and their vintners.
A few years ago, we were invited to attend the very first Sonoma County Vintners Association Barrel Auction. The auction brings together many of the best wineries in Sonoma who donate ‘case lots’’—either five, 10, or 20 cases of the best wine each winery can produce from that year’s harvest. These premiere wines are produced only for the auction and are not available anywhere else. That initial invitation started off a great working relationship with the Sonoma County Vintners Association, as well as many Sonoma wineries, so they invited us to the “Sustainable
Sonoma: Sonoma in the City” event in D.C. The tasting was intended to highlight the quality of what that part of California can produce, as well as bring an understanding of the practices and care that each winery puts into the ground they use.
Sonoma County is home to over 60,000 acres of vineyards, 400 wineries, and more than 17 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Each one of the distinct growing areas brings unique and phenomenal qualities that aid in the production of beautiful and superior wines. Part of the process of the Auction is for us to taste through all of the wines that will be auctioned off on the final day. Most wineries send their winemaker to taste each wine and explain why they choose that varietal from that particular vineyard. That gives Bay Ridge a wonderful opportunity to get to know the people behind the wine and opens up dialog between our team and each winery. We’ve been very fortunate to host many of these producers here in Annapolis, and most importantly, share their wines with our customers. The quality-to-price-ratio is fantastic and our customers deserve having these wines available to them.
How are your wines chosen? Do you have a special sommelier?
We are lucky to have two certified Sommeliers on staff along with other individuals who have spent countless hours tasting, visiting, and reviewing wines from around the world. Maryland
has an unbelievable amount of wine that we have the opportunity to choose from. We could take out every bottle of wine in our store today and restock with wine that is available that we don’t currently carry over five times and never duplicate any one item. In order to decide which items to sell, we taste a lot of wine every week and choose what we believe brings the best value in each category. We rotate new wines in and out regularly. Of course, we carry those products that are everyday wines that we basically need to carry. Kind of like a grocer needs to have milk and bread.
How do you stay involved with the community? What are some of your civic activities?
The Annapolis community has been so welcoming to our business and our family and we hope that, over the years, we have been able to repay that in some way. The list of charitable contributions that we have made is way too long to list here, but we fully understand that we could not do what we do without the community. Chuck is active with the Annapolis Rotary, the Anne Arundel Library Foundation, Leadership Anne Arundel, and currently serves on many nonprofit Boards. Moons Barbershop Back-Pack Drive, the Annapolis Anne Arundel Boys & Girls Club, Maryland Hall Arts Alive! and the Annapolis City Police K9 Division are just some of the many contributions that we have made over the years.
Gin & Tonic
Tanqueray and Tonic is Chuck’s drink of choice. In an industry with many different brands, categories, and choices, this simple drink is what he enjoys most. It also exemplifies our overall approach to our business, keep it simple. Anyone who has shared a business meeting over lunch or dinner with him has come to know this is the only thing he will order. One of Chuck’s favorite running jokes is that the lime in his drink is the only “green food” he eats.
• Add 1.5 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
• Fill glass with tonic water
• Garnish with a fresh lime wedge
Rita Calvert has close to three decades in the food, media production, marketing, and public relations fields. She has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television for corporations, the stage for cookbooks, and founded the original Annapolis School of Cooking.