Driving around at the start of a major snowstorm, you’ll see people lining up to shop at a handful of retail businesses. Grocery stores are the big one. Of course hardware stores are also important because who hasn’t headed into a storm minus that bag of salt or with a cracked shovel?
But don’t overlook the liquor store. People want to make sure they’re stocked up on their favorite sippers if they’re going to be holed up inside for a few days at a time.
This created an interesting dilemma in the business at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as the public began a months-long quarantine.
It also helped the wine and spirits shops who bring their goods straight to you to thrive.
“We used to do maybe 10 [orders] a day on the weekends,” said Deb Gove of Greenport Wines and Spirits on Front Street. “And then for COVID, it just was like, ‘Wow!’ We now go out twice a day [all week long] for delivery.”
Liquor stores and wineries found that for the customer, the convenience of having that favorite bottle brought straight to you had a lasting impact, as Gove says that part of the business has remained steady in the two years since, delivering about five times as many bottles to customers as they did prior to the start of the pandemic.
“We had to buy a delivery vehicle,” she added.
Home delivery is a service Greenport Wines and Spirits has offered since Deb, who previously worked in sales for a beverage distributor, and her winemaker husband Greg opened the shop in 2009. Though previously underutilized, the shop still became known for offering delivery in an increasingly seasonal community, where customers return to their weekend homes from points west and appreciate having their drink of choice brought to them.
“A lot of people are, they’re not even out yet, maybe they’re heading out,” she said. “So they’ll call us the day before or even the day of and say, ‘Listen, I’m going to be out there by five, can you drop some stuff off?’”
Gove stressed that her crew has systems in place to ensure the product is being delivered to people who are old enough to consume it. They also have an online shop to make the selection process easier. Their delivery area spans from Orient Point to Riverhead and across the harbor to Shelter Island.
So what do people order?
“A lot of times it’s a case of wine,” Gove said. “Some Tito’s. Bourbon is big these days, we deliver a lot of bourbon and whiskey on the higher end.” Around the holidays someone from out of town might make a purchase as a gift for someone staying on the North Fork, she added.
Wine purchases don’t necessarily skew local, but there’s a new business on the block taking care of that. Trellus is a same-day delivery service partnering only with locally owned businesses that launched in Nassau County in 2021. This year, they’ve branched out to Suffolk and have partnered with North Fork wineries to provide a delivery solution. Paumanok and Pugliese are the first two wineries to buy into the service.
Think of Trellus as the local shop owners’ answer to Amazon and a way for the consumer to shop local with a similar level of convenience as the mega-retailer. The aim is to make it possible for a winery, or other small local purveyor, to get their products to the home of a customer as quickly as possible without having to expend a resource.
“Printing a shipping label is just about all the winery does,” said Trellus CEO Adam Haber.
While most wineries will deliver locally, Trellus is designed to speed up the process, with drivers being pinged as a batch delivery is ready to go at a retail partner.
Trellus even has its own marketplace consumers can peruse to find businesses using the service. The marketplace will eventually be fully functional for shopping straight on the Trellus site, Haber said. He also wants to expand the offerings by partnering with farm stands and oyster purveyors.
Ultimately, both Gove and Haber stressed these services are all about the consumer and designed to make shopping easier in complicated times.
“We’ve offered this since the beginning,” Gove said of home delivery. “We recognized it was important to people and is even more so today.”