BY Claudio E. Cabrera
Photography by Paul Lomax
Earlier this week, I passed by the newly opened Heights Wine & Spirits located at 4474 Broadway (between 192nd and 193rd Street). I sat down, had a glass of wine and we spoke about the opening of the store, their knowledge of the liquor industry, and how the neighborhood has reacted to them.
When did you guys open?
4 months ago.
How long did it take you guys to build this establishment?
It took us about 2 to 3 months.
What did you do before this?
Alexis De Rosario: I am still working as an Air Craft Technician and come to the store at night to help out.
Busy isn’t the word.
What about you Yency?
Yency Perez: My parents owned a few liquor stores in the Heights and the Bronx. I learned through my parents and took a long journey of learning across the world to get here.
What qualifies you to be experts in the liquor business?
Yency: I have a certificate as a sommelier. I learned from the bottom all the way to the top in Miami. I went to school in Montreal, Mexico, and locally at Pace University. In Montreal, I learned from an Italian friend for five years. In Miami, I was in the importing wine business for 10 years.
What is your role within the store Alexis?
I work mostly on the operational side of the business, though my knowledge of wine has steadily increased throughout the years.
What makes you unique in comparison to other liquor stores in the area?
We have a very unique look. Its not your typical liquor store with the owners behind glass. It’s a neighborhood liquor store where people can actually touch us and talk to us.
At our store, we understand that many people can’t afford all the great wines. But we have such a huge selection and extensive knowledge of the industry, that we have various alternatives we can offer them. We don’t only think profit. We know that in business money comes and goes. Professionalism doesn’t. It dies with you.
What are the most popular wine areas in the world at the moment?
The Argentinian wine industry has made a consistent rise throughout the years, and its Malbec seems to be the best on the market. South Africa and France also have very good wines.
Give me some of the experiences your customers value about your store.
We have a couple of French girls here who stop by a lot, and they always have a bottle of wine and go home. Many people love the wooden oak table in the back and feel at home. After work, it’s a great place to come and relax.
So you allow customers to open the wine in your store and taste it?
Absolutely. People deserve to taste what they are buying.
What is the one thing people may not know about running a liquor store?
Sometimes, the corks break on wine bottles (rarely ever happens) and a customer will return the product. To prevent that, all liquor stores that carry wine usually flip the bottles once a week to keep the cork moistened. The cork dries when it doesn’t get enough air. As you can see, we have hundreds of bottles in this store.
Tedious process huh?
Has a broken cork ever happened to you?
It happened once. We take it serious whenever a customer comes back with a broken cork. We will go to same company and pick you a premium wine if the cork breaks. If we have to take a whole line of wine off, we won’t sell them.
How many wine brands do you have?
We have over 500 different wine brands at the moment.
What are your favorite wines?
Alexis: Riesling White Wine Bauer Haus
Yency: My doctor actually told me to cut back on that stuff, but Malbec’s are currently my favorite.
What do local residents have to say?
Ilse who recently moved here from France: This place is great. It’s a very nice addition to the neighborhood. I always come in and am able to have a nice glass of wine on their wooden table. Its relaxing and quiet.
Tell me about your extensive collection of organic and kosher wines?
We started with 3 shelves of kosher wines and we’ve had a lot of support from the local Jewish community. According to many, we have the biggest kosher selection in the area. Organic wines are good and we have seen progress with them.
How educated are local consumers about wine and liquor as a whole?
They are very educated and that makes our jobs a lot easier. But, there is nothing like educating someone on wine and watching them come a few months later even smarter than you.
What do customers have to look forward to in the future?
More wine tastings and the upcoming customer appreciation day. Christmas gift packs at low cost including free delivery, gift boxes, and a greater selection of wines.