Co-Owners of Restaurant, Store Can See, Taste, and Smell Success
|Mark Pascal and Francis Schott are co-owners of Old Vines wine store and the restaurant Stage Left
In at least one important way, Old Vines wine shop is more like an ice cream store than a liquor store.
At Old Vines, a wine shop located two stores down from Stage Left and run by the same owners, you can taste samples of wine before you buy them. That's much like an ice cream parlor, where you can taste small samples before investing in a cone.
"We are doing unbelievably well," said Francis Schott, who co-owns the restaurant and store with Mark Pascal. It is the only liquor store connected directly to a restaurant in the county. "People are stopping in and buying a bottle, or a case. New Brunswick is a wonderful place to do business."
When Stage Left opened eight years ago, it quickly became known for its wine selection. Schott was the former wine maven at The Frog and the Peach, where he organized wine classes and tastings. The wine list started offering bottles priced from $11 to $99, but some prices in the new wine shop exceed $200.
Schott speaks with a passion about wine, and has traveled to California and Australia seeking out new vintners such as Helen Turley and Paul Hobbs, both of California. He built a relationship with many vintners before their wines became famous.
"Nobody was buying these obscure little producers," he said. If wines weren't given a good score from a reputable wine magazine, no one paid attention to them, he added.
"We were beating the bushes, and found many of these small producers," he said. "Mark and I have these long-standing relationships with these winemakers now because we buy wine we think is great."
The store and restaurant have a "broad C" liquor license issued by the state, which allows the store owner to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption and to sell it the same as a liquor store does.
There are 524 such licenses in the state and 54 licenses in Middlesex County, said a spokesman for the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Most of those are being used by bars that have a liquor store attached to them.
One major bonus to having a "broad C" license is that patrons can sample wine Old Vines sells, unlike in traditional liquor stores. The store is also open till 10.p.m. Sundays because it's treated as part of the restaurant, and not as a freestanding store.
Schott said he hopes people will learn to appreciate wine by purchasing it at his store or by taking an eight-week wine-tasting class he offers, beginning this January.
"I give people bad habits," he said jokingly.