Talking Wines with Mike Buckley of Gramercy Wine Cellar

In this week’s Merchant of the Week segment, we showcase Mike Buckley of Gramercy Wine Cellar and inquire how he went from being an elementary school principal to managing a successful wine business. Mike also shares his recommendation on what summer beverage we should all be watching out for!


Jason Lalk (Bindo): So Mike, you’re an elementary school principal before. How can you go from that to conducting Gramercy Wine Cellar?

Mike: Well, I was sitting on my front porch one day with my neighbor. At the moment, he had been a wine importer, and I had been whining about my job. I became a leader at 37 and I thought to myself,”I really don’t need to do this for 30 more years .” My neighbor said,”Have you ever thought about the wine & spirits business?” And I said,”No, but I am willing to try anything, and it seems like fun.” He brought me to the shop that was up for sale and rather than purchasing it, I met Beta and we became partners — and I kind of bought out his sister’s talk. I didn’t know a good deal about wine, and I did not know a good deal about business, but I had some skills. I figured I could figure it out, particularly when I had someone working with me. We became partners and that has been the best thing thats ever happened to me — business-wise.

Jason (Bindo): So it seems like you sell more than just wine in Gramercy Wine Cellar.

Mike: We are probably 65% wine. We sort of position ourselves as a wine store that sells liquor. We are not discounters who give away the stuff. And I am not trying to court the client who is trying to save 50 cents on a half gallon of Bacardi. That is not the customer I am choosing. That’s a different version, that’s another game, and there is enough shops like that I did not want to get into that. I also don’t think its a real fun way to spend the day, just trying to play with numbers, and squeeze another nickel from a half gallon of Bacardi.

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Jason (Bindo): Interesting, so you have been here for 11 years. I imagine plenty has changed in the last ten years.

Mike: Well, I believe that is for all retail. It has just been kind of a juggernaut. It is just completely mixed up the entire thing. I mean, you need to have an internet presence — if you can work technology in your company in as many ways as possible that is reasonable, then that is what you’ve got to do. There are loads of men out there who are still using the old cash register with the tape along with the calculator. How they handle inventory, I don’t have any idea. How they have an internet presence, I don’t have any idea. But this type of brings it all together for us.

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Jason (Bindo): So what were you using before Bindo?

Mike: We had a POS system that cost us $6,000 and it lasted 3 years…and the hard drive .

Jason (Bindo): Oh no, and it was all locally saved?

Mike: Well, our tech guy said he had been backing it up and then if it recovered, about half of it had been backed up. I lost all my customers that was stored. And his solution was for me to purchase another system. So, as I am arguing with him, one of those men from Bindo, Bill came in and did a fast demo. I said”What is the upfront cost?” and he said “Nothing.” I said”How can I get the stock in there?” And he said”I will help you set it in.” And I’m like, “Alright, giddy up!” It was really that simple.

Jason (Bindo): So with Bindo, how many clients do you have in here today?

Mike: 736.

Jason (Bindo): And thats just from people coming and placing their names in as you go along?

Mike: We do a whole lot of delivery and we get a great deal of phone numbers. When I receive a phone order, I inform them that I will keep their name in to our POS here and in the long run when they call, they all need to do is give me their last name and we will just use whatever we saved. 99 percent of the time they are like,”That is so straightforward.”

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Jason (Bindo): Are you storing credit card information in any respect, and therefore are people receptive to this?

Mike: Sure. They’re fine. I am upfront about it. I don’t do it without speaking to someone first, and they are totally fine with it.

Jason (Bindo): That is terrific. So you have been with us since fairly near day one. You’ve seen the growth of the product itself: By the iOS 6 variant, to being able to check out people, to adding all of the customer attributes, to establishing the product catalogue.

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Mike: Some of the new features are things that I use and I am really glad they are there, and many others are attributes that I could see how they would be helpful to other folks, but I do not necessarily use them. There’s absolutely not any one-size fits all.

Jason (Bindo): So what would you say that your favourite feature of the app is?

Mike: My favourite feature of the app is I can access it from your home. I can sit at home and see what is happening. I also have the capability to find the cameras out of house in order for my days off, I could sit back and forth between the cameras and the real register and I’ve got a very clear image of what is happening when I am not around.

Jason (Bindo): That is great to hear. It seems as if you are really passionate about your company and you love talking to people about different wines.

Mike: I really do. I mean, everything in here is stuff that we have picked. It is, without sounding snobby, it is curated. We like to sell things that we enjoy. We taste everything. Unless it’s the genuine high-end stuff: Then you do not need to taste it, you know its gonna be great. Most of what is here, we have tasted and we have chosen. It is on the shelf because we enjoy it. It makes recommending wine simple since it is not a matter of good or bad, it is a matter of is it likely to fulfill your taste.

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Jason (Bindo): Exactly. We are bourbon drinkers over in the Bindo office. How about here at Gramercy Wine Cellar? What is something that you guys think we should be studying?

Mike: So this substance, St. George Distillery, is out in Northern California. They were among the first boutique distilleries. They do not really make this, but they combine it. It’s the one thing they don’t make. What they do is they go to Kentucky, and they purchase barrels from 6 unique distilleries in Kentucky. They bring it back to California, they combine those 6 together, and make what they call a”super-brewing.” So this is their super-brewing. And I think for what it costs, it is really brilliant. I tasted it two weeks ago and purchased a few cases, and my distribution has gone away! I basically bought it because I wanted to take it on this fishing trip, but folks have been purchasing it.

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Jason (Bindo): That is wonderful. What’s a fantastic summer drink that individuals should be looking out for?

Mike: A fantastic summer drink. You know, rosé is always alluring. Each year, I probably sell 10-15percent more rosé than I did the summer before. People are starting to understand that its not sweet. I meanthere are certainly sweet ones out there. However, our exposure to rosé was always the cheap, sweet ones. However, it’s fine, it generally has some fruit into it. So, yeah, you should always focus on rosé. I think, it was last year when the Aperol Spritz actually hit. Thats always a excellent drink. I mean, you can do a million things with Prosecco and be completely fine.