Arverne resident Adam Linet has been in the wine industry for over a decade. His journey to opening his own boutique-style wine and spirits retail shops had its twists and turns—from working in public relations and advertising to selling Long Island wines as a sales rep. However, 11 years ago Linet realized his passion to run his own operation when he opened Vino Fine Wine & Spirits in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. The Rockaway Times seized the opportunity to chat with Linet about how moving to Rockaway made the grapes of his labor even sweeter when he opened Vino By The Sea (VBTS). Plus, how COVID’s challenges led him to expand his business model to why pairing a red cabernet with a steak or barbecue is a cardinal mistake, Linet offers a riveting dialogue.
RT: You say that retail in wine and spirits industry was your calling. Why?
AL: When I first got out of college, I worked in public relations and advertising research. Though I was good at my job, I hated the corporate environment. I loved waiting tables, bartending and catering from my days in college. So, I took classes with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), while applying to any wine/spirits job I could find. I got a job working the farmer’s markets and selling L.I. wines to bars and restaurants. After asking around how I can learn more about the industry, I was told to get a job in retail, where you’ll learn more than anywhere else. I landed a job at First Avenue Vintner, a wine and spirits store in Manhattan. After two years loving what I was doing, I started looking for shops for sale. I learned that Vino Fine Wine & Spirits on E 27th Street in Manhattan was for sale. I bought it, and it’s still thriving 11 years later. In the beginning, it was a lot of baptism by fire, at least seven years, learning how to manage inventory, cash flow, etc. I tell people that retail is not for everyone. You have to love and have a passion for it.
RT: Why move to Rockaway when you were running a business in Manhattan?
AL: My longtime girlfriend and I were renting in Astoria, and for fun, she googled, “Beachfront NYC,” and Arverne By The Sea’s The Dunes popped up. This was just after Sandy. So, we got on a list and told the sales reps to let us know when the beachfront homes were almost sold out. Eventually there were seven or so left, and with just a $500 deposit, we secured a house. Since moving out here six years ago, I tell people that I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Where else can you live the beach vibe in a big city like NYC that’s affordable? Plus, Rockaway is a really special place. It’s so down-to-earth, where you can just be yourself. My wife and I are originally from New England, and we get a lot of that feel here. Also, I appreciate the growing diversity that’s coming together. As an outsider, in the beginning, I could see the division in terms of communities, but the Arverne By The Sea developments brought a lot of people together.
RT: What led you to open VBTS?
AL: When we moved here, I knew about the retail space available at The Tides. Living and owning a business in the physical geographical center of the peninsula, Arverne is where it’s at. Since we thought there was no nice fine wine and spirits shop anywhere on the peninsula, I approached the developers about opening one. We got some push back as they did not want a liquor store. However, after showing them photos of my shop in Manhattan and explaining what I sold, VBTS was one of the first businesses to open here in 2018. Time flies when you are surrounded by alcohol.
RT: You mentioned that you bought a warehouse on Beach 90th in July 2020. What happens there?
AL: At the warehouse, we ship wines and other spirits nationwide, not for the consumer, but commercial retail. During COVID, my Manhattan store sales tanked by 40 percent. However, with the distributor business, we were able to flip COVID on its head. Our distribution exploded with high margin, low volume kind of stuff, almost like running a Costco. MY UPS shipping bill is over a million dollars a year as we ship tens of thousands packages a year.
RT: How do you select the wines and other spirited beverages you sell in the store?
AL: If you go to your local farmer’s market looking to buy organic, local or fresh—why would you then drink mass-produced wines and liquors? From the wine, cider, sake—every one of the producers we sell here, there’s a face behind it—a farmer, grower, producer. There’s so much history and quality in family-run businesses. As a retailer, it’s cool to meet the people behind the products, and introduce customers to their stories.
RT: A wise man said, “White wine is like electricity. Red wine looks and tastes like a liquified beefsteak.” What wine would you pair with a pizza or even a steak?
AL: At a steakhouse or barbecue, most people reach for a heavy red. That’s a terrible pairing. You want something light with acidity and brightness because it cuts through the steak’s fattiness. A lot of Italian wines are very high in acid, making them good food wines. Also, why not try a sparkling red Lambrusco, Cava or Barbera? Get something light and bright to go with heavy, fatty food.
Stop by Vino By The Sea, located at 190 Beach 69th Street. They are open Mondays to Saturdays, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free local deliveries are available. For more info, visit: vinobythesea.com. For $3 off your order, use promo code: BAG3 for $3 off with bag-less delivery. Plus, check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
By Kami-Leigh Agard
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