A Wine Store Owner Describes How to Manage a Wine Shop

Here, a wine store owner describes her career in the wine industry: managing her gourmet food and wine shops. This job description reveals that owning a wine store is a labor of love and passion.

As with any small business, knowing how to manage a specialty shop brings its challenges — and its rewards.

One of the most surprising things about Tracy Kellner, owner of two Provenance Food & Wine shops in Chicago, is how enthusiastically she embraces the food and wine shops in her area.

“We are enthusiastic supporters of other small businesses, especially other culinary businesses,” she says. “I’m constantly asked if so-and-so down the street is affecting our business. Yes, that store does affect our business – in positive way!”

Finding synergy in your “competition” is one of the best ways to succeed as an entrepreneur. Whether you’re looking for a job in the wine industry (sommelier, wine sales, etc) or planning to open your own business, you’d do well to befriend your colleagues.

And here’s a taste of Kellner’s job – plus a bit ‘o career advice for aspiring entrepreneurs…

A Wine Store Owner Describes How to Manage a Wine Shop

“As the owner and manager of Provenance Food & Wine, I oversee all daily operations with running a retail specialty food & wine shop,” says Kellner. “This involves ordering (I share ordering responsibilities with my husband Joe Patt, who manages our first location), accounts payable, training, hiring, merchandising, public relations and marketing, and every thing else that comes with running a small business.”

How Much Money Does a Wine Store Owner Make?

The wine store staff earns an average of $10/hour. “My husband and I earn $25,000 a year,” says Kellner. “We both have Bachelor’s degrees, but that isn’t required to work in our shop. We rely more on personality and interpersonal skills, and a passion for food and wine.”

The Best Parts of Managing a Food and Wine Shop

Kellner enjoys the customer interaction and introducing people to small-batch, handmade products that don’t compromise quality. “We’re here for our customers,” she says. “People fascinate me – I thrive on learning what motivates them.”

She adds that she loves getting people hooked on “real” food, and educating them on why it’s so important to support sustainable food systems, locally and all over the world.

The Downside of Owning a Wine Store

Paying bills is rarely the best part of owning any small business! “As a small business, cash flow always needs to be managed carefully,” says Kellner. “I lose 30% of every day, cleaning up other people’s mistakes (the wrong wine or food delivered, flawed products, etc).”

The Biggest Surprise About Working as an Entrepreneur

“We are enthusiastic supporters of other small businesses, especially other culinary businesses,” she says. “I’m constantly asked if so-and-so down the street is affecting our business and they do – in positive way!”

Kellner wants people to support small business – their own and other entrepreneurs. The more small businesses – even other specialty wine and food shops – in the area, the better it is for everyone.

She adds that other small wine and food specialty shops keep her on her game. “We need to know about the product we sell, and search for products the other stores don’t have. And, we want to tell our customers the stories behind our wines and foods.”

Career Tips for Aspiring Wine Entrepreneurs or Small Business Owners

If you’re thinking of starting a small business, Kellner advises you to be prepared to sacrifice a lot! She says, “I gave up three weeks of paid vacation, pretty good health insurance, a salary with bonuses, and peace of mind that I would be getting my next paycheck.”

She adds that owning a wine store also gave her wonderful experience and knowledge. “I’ve met incredible people, and I bolster other small food entrepreneurs by selling their products at our shops.”

Tracy Kellner spent almost 10 years working in restaurants, where she learned about the synergy of food and wine, and how to treat your guests to an experience. She opened her first shop five years ago, with her husband Joe Patt. Visit them at Provenance Food and Wine.

Do you have any questions or thoughts on owning a wine store, or working in the wine industry? Please comment below.

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