It’s all-out wine war in Red Hook!
In a neighborhood once known only for bulletproof liquor stores, a just-opened upscale wine and spirits shop is attempting to sabotage the opening of a second high-end shop only two blocks away.
Jealousy is partly to blame in this Van Brunt Street showdown — the Discovery Channel’s “Construction Intervention” helped turn the still-unopened shop, Botta di Vino, into a world-class store in only four days last year, completely for free.
That left the owners of Dry Dock, who renovated their own store at the corner of Van Dyke Street last year, resentful.
“I had to cash out my 401K to start this business,” said Mary Kyle, one of the owners of Dry Dock. “We didn’t have a TV network come in and build a business.”
Yes, the owners of Botta di Vino find themselves in that enviable position — but they still lack the most important thing: a permit from the State Liquor Authority. And Kyle and her husband are contesting it on the grounds that Botta di Vino, which is between Wolcott and Dikeman streets, is too near to their location.
Plus, Botta di Vino would not only join Dry Dock, but the unnamed “bulletproof” liquor store on the corner of Sullivan Street.
“When I stand in the front of my store, I can see the other stores!” Ron Kyle testified before the liquor authority last Wednesday. “I could not find three stores in such a cluster (in nearby neighborhoods).”
But the Kyles’ argument is not strictly about keeping the neighborhood safe from a third wine store.
“We’ve invested $200,000 in a store that just opened,” he argued. “It will take at least two years before we see any return on that investment. … If Botta Di Vino were a dentist, or a doctor, or a hardware store, or a dry cleaner, that would make more sense.”
Triciann and Jeff Botta say that they aren’t a direct competitor to Dry Dock, as they plan to sell only wines from small wineries.
Their store has a legitimate shot at being the fanciest wine vendor in the whole city. The space features a fireplace, a courtyard, an impressive wine bottle design that runs along a stairway, and a section of glass floor that looks down into the basement, which holds several wine barrels.
“We don’t want to disparage theirs or our rep,” said Triciann Botta. “From our end, we would rather have our business promoted in a positive light.”
So far, there has not been any vintner-on-vintner violence — but the two owners differ drastically on their view of Red Hook, and therein lies another part of the problem. The Kyles have lived in the area for many years and, as such, feel that they know their audience better than the newcomers, the Bottas.
“They have a different opinion about the specialty market for wine in this neighborhood,” said Ron Kyle. “I believe it is very small.”
He added that recent studies have shown that the classic signs of the “boom” in Red Hook — the Ikea and the Fairway — actually have yielded more car traffic than profits for nearby small businesses.
The Bottas, on the other hand, see Red Hook as a neighborhood on the rise — despite the economic downturn that put an end to the over-the-top $1-million apartment deals and also resulted in the nickname, “Dead Hook.”
“We think there is a lot of potential for the neighborhood,” said Triciann. “Every summer, there are more moving trucks — it improves by leaps and bounds.”
The Bottas say they signed their lease only a week or two from the time that the Kyles got the state go-ahead to sell spirits — meaning that they unknowingly popped the cork on the wine war.
The Kyles insist that their would-be competitors were well aware of their store opening down the street.
Either way, both were keenly aware of opportunity presented by the closing of LeNell’s, the beloved liquor store whose owner left for Mexico in 2009.
Throughout the showdown, the “bulletproof” store has maintained the dispassionate detachment of a neighborhood elder statesman who has seen it all.
“Supposedly, [liquor stores] shouldn’t be so close together,” said Carmen Garcia, who has worked at the shop for 40 years. “But everyone has a right to own their [sic] own business. But we’re not worried — we’re like an institution here.”fic than fic than