What happened to the Wilton Wine Shoppe? That question was something frequently asked of GOOD Morning Wilton over the last year, after the wine and liquor store in a very visible spot on Rte. 7/Danbury Rd. closed. Now, there’s a new answer to the question–it is reopening as of today (Friday, Nov. 22) under a new owner, one who has experience, passion for wine, and home-grown Wilton residency on his side.
“What I’m trying to do is revitalize what was once a nice, small-town wine and spirit shop in Wilton and really bring back a passion and love of the wine industry and craft beers and all of the spirits back into the Wilton Wine Shoppe,” says new owner Rob Hall.
Hall, who grew up in Wilton, also owns New Canaan Wine Merchants, and is eager to bring his brand of management back to the town where he lives.
“It’s going to be about a smiling face when you walk in the door, and customer service. The one thing I’ve found in this business is it’s really more important than even your knowledge of wines. The New Canaan store is really built upon those things–customer service, learning people’s names, free wine classes, wine and cheese dinners and wine maker events, where an actual wine maker will come in and teach all about their wines–things that you may not have experienced in other retail liquor stores here,” he says, adding he’ll also feature tastings for beer and spirits as well.
As a Wilton resident, he was very familiar with the Wilton Wine Shoppe in its previous incarnation, even before owning his own in neighboring New Canaan.
“I used to actually shop this store, and it was a great small town store with a really good manager. Then the owners decided to sell, and when Total Wine down in Norwalk came in, everybody took a hit locally. But what really happened was after they sold, [the new owners] got rid of their really good manager–he knew the business, he knew people’s names, he had that model I’m looking to bring back. The new owner didn’t share that same sentiment, and he wasn’t warm and fuzzy with customers and he started changing out products you might recognize to stuff you would have no idea what it is or what it tastes like. You could see the decline in inventory, you could see the decline in management, and then ultimately they had to shut down,” Hall explains.
His own way of doing things in New Canaan is the polar opposite. “The successes I’ve had in New Canaan is really getting to know the customer base, know their names and know and remember what they like. To remember what they bought so they don’t have to walk to the back of the store. You see them coming in the front door, you say, ‘I’ll go grab your bottle of Merlot,’ or whatever it is. Hopefully I can have that same success here, of knowing people’s interests in beer and wine and spirits and then keep them coming back.”
‘Coming back’ is a theme for Hall. He grew up in Wilton, but career took him to California for almost seven years, where he says he developed much of his love and knowledge of wine, before moving back to his hometown.
“We traveled to Napa and Sonoma and all over California while we were there, visiting vineyards. Friends would invite us over for holiday meals and dinners and they all had wine cellars and they would bring out great wine, and we really learned a lot about the different types and appreciation of a finer wine and then enjoying that with friends.”
That passion is something Hall is eager to share. “Celebrations with family and friends have always been important parts of my life. Those celebrations typically–at least in my family and friends–have always involved both wine and spirits and beer and sports and all that fun stuff that goes along with it. So I have great memories and passions for those products that help people enjoy those same types of events in their lives and their love for their families and friends as well.”
Even with running two businesses, Hall is planning on spending a lot of time in the Wilton store, especially for the first few months, meeting and listening to customers, learning what they like, and trying to accommodate as much as possible. “Customers bring a lot of good ideas that you may not have heard of, like a new type of wine. ‘Hey, can you get this? Will you carry it?’ And my answer’s most likely going to be, ‘Yes.’”
With such a visible location at the intersection of Rte. 7/Danbury Rd. and Rte. 106/Sharp Hill Rd., the reopening has already attracted attention. “Just from the time I’ve been putting in getting the store ready to open, I can’t tell you how many people have come knocking on the door, looking for something to buy or asking when I’m going to be open,” says Hall. “It’s a very convenient stop for people coming home or driving around doing their errands on the weekends and Fridays. They once had a very successful business here prior and I think I can get it back to where we need to be.”
The opening today will feature a food truck, as Hall hopes to welcome customers to the shoppe-with-an-e.
“I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of folks that I haven’t met, hearing about them, learning what they like and what they need and hopefully fulfilling that for them,” he says.
Wilton Wine Shoppe is located at 203 Danbury Rd.