“Fine Wine. No Attitude.” That’s the guiding principle of Frankly Wines, the shop Christy Frank ’00 opened in New York City’s Tribeca in 2007.
But demystifying wine — that’s not on the menu. “I love the mystery of wine,” says Frank. “I don’t want to dumb it down; I want to remove the snobbery. I want to engage people and start conversations about wine.”
To foster those conversations, the 320 square-foot shop feels more like a wine bar than a store. Winemakers stop by to host frequent tastings, sometimes accompanied by live music. On Cinco de Mayo, the shop offered margarita samples.
When a customer is looking for a dry white wine, Frank and her team don’t just point them to a shelf of Chardonnays. They ask questions. Lots of them. “We take the time to help people really understand what they want,” says Frank. The shop also offers educational cases of wine, including one that illustrates the different meanings of the term “dry.”
Before venturing out on her own, Frank worked for seven years for Moët Hennessy USA, the wine and spirits division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, most recently as the manager of the US business for the company’s Australia/New Zealand portfolio.
It was getting to know wine storeowners across the country that gave Frank the retail bug. “I was so impressed by their knowledge,” she says. “With wine, there’s always so much to learn and discover.”
Don’t be too precious.“Pour yourself a glass, and if you feel like the wine could benefit from air, let it breath. If you’re at a restaurant, engage the people working there and tell them what you like.”
“I really love wine” is not a valid business plan. “We’re always told to do what we’re passionate about. But something about this very glamorous industry can cloud people’s judgment. Make sure you understand all of the nuts and bolts that go into selling the product. Retail is mostly about people. Even if you do love wine, you also have to like talking to the public every day.”
Illustration by Scotty Reifsnyder