BRIX Wine Shop Opens on Windy Way by Marie-Claire Rochat
When the BRIX Chix see something they like, they go for it.
Take, for instance, BRIX - the wine and spirits shop that Carri Wroblewski and Klaudia Mally recently opened on Nantucket at 1 Windy Way, the former location of the Wine Cellar. It is their third retail establishment - numbers one and two are in Boston's South End and Financial District. Business partners and best friends, Wroblewski and Mally saw the property listing online last January, boarded a Cape Air flight from Boston at 6:00am two days later, saw the space at 8:00am and by noon were ready to close the deal. That's just the way they operate.
"We got back to Boston and were having brunch at Island Creek Oyster," said Wroblewski. "We looked at each other and said, "it's a great opportunity and a great place for us to spread our wings. Let's go for it.'"
When BRIX opened in early July after a massive interior renovation, many of the first people to walk through the door were familiar faces - customers from Boston who were thrilled to see their favorite wine shop on Nantucket. But while the partners have stayed true to the BRIX philosophy that has rewarded them with a loyal following in Boston, they have tailored the look of their newest outpost to suit the island mentality and will cater to the year-round population by offering shoulder season events.
I went into BRIX last week to check it out - and to pick up a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Wroblewski had described the newly redesigned space as smart and sexy which, in my book, are the two very best adjectives to describe anything. I am curious about anything that is smart and sexy.
The 750 square foot shop has been beautifully opened up and refreshed, with pickled oak floors and floor to ceiling, custom crafted brushed nickel wine racks on the two facing walls. Each bottle is adorned with an oak tag card listing the price (far superior to the nasty stickers that leave behind that adhesive residue). Notably absent are the plastic crates filled with dusty bottles that so many package stores customarily stack throughout the store, creating a precariously narrow, obstacle course and forcing (by default) well-intentioned customers to slink past sideways so as not to tip the towers of French Bordeaux or German Riesling.
On a farmer's table there is an assortment of hard-to-find (so I'm told) spirits and specialty ingredients sure to entice the most serious mixologist: Dorothy Parkers American Gin, Bittermens Boston Bittahs, Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka and Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries. Tucked underneath are the
BRIX Six Packs - the monthly special assortment of wines curated by Wroblewski and packed in a snappy little carrying case - an ideal hostess gift or housewarming present. "We call it the most sophisticated six pack you'll ever drink," she said. "It's like a portable mini wine tasting!"
There is a lot of open space, unusual for any retail shop, but I am hastily reassured that none of it is wasted. Hosting tastings and events is a major part of the business at BRIX, and Wroblewski and Mally have left plenty of room for their guests to "mix and mingle," as if they are lingering at the bar before being seated for dinner. "We want it to feel more like a restaurant than a retail shop," said Wroblewski.
They have achieved that in some very clever ways: similar to a wine list, the reds are on one side of the shop, the whites on the other. The custom designed cash wrap is positioned like a bar with bottles of spirits displayed on the floating, glass shelves on the back wall. The day I was in the shop, Wroblewski was behind the bar, chatting with her customers in the friendly, easy manner of a seasoned bartender.
I took my place in line with my $12 bottle from New Zealand.
"I especially like that one with a slight chill on it," she told one gentleman who approached with a bottle of white. "We love the 2009s and 2010s, so we are buying up as much of those as we can."
To another customer, she noted the "deep, rich hints of mocha" of a bottle of red. In response to an inquiry about a specific vintage, she suggested the customer email her a picture of the wine label, adding that she would do her best to procure a case.
Clearly, customer service is a priority. I asked Wroblewski about her staff and the challenges inherent in finding employees who can talk the complex language of wine. Selling tee-shirts is one thing; selling wine is another.
"We spend a lot of time interviewing to make sure that potential employees have a strong base about wine - and about food," she said.
If a customer asks for a red that will work with grilled pork tenderloin seasoned with a rosemary and garlic rub, Wroblewski and Mally want to know that their employees will make the right suggestions.
BRIX is one of the most attractive wine shops I have ever been in, but that doesn't mean that every bottle is pricy: you can spend $7.00 for vodka and you can spend $700 for a case of wine. Wroblewski puts it into words I like - they have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday wines and spirits, and then they have the Friday and Saturday bottles.
Wroblewski and Mally are still "adjusting" the inventory for their Nantucket shop; as they get to know the clientele, they will stock based on the demand. The commercial kitchen in the building allows them to sell artisanal cheese, crackers and charcuterie (something they cannot do in their Boston shops) and they plan to collaborate with island growers to create new drink mixes and cocktails.
The BRIX Chix are thrilled to be part of the dynamic food and wine scene on the island and are "deliciously happy" with how busy they have been. "Customers are really excited about the look and feel of the shop," said Wroblewski. "It is so open and airy now."
I confess my palate is far from sophisticated when it comes to wine, but I was quite taken with the sophisticated look of BRIX. I raise my stemmed glass and welcome the BRIX Chix to ACK.