The Moffat Family
Introducing the Moffats, in Gary’s Words . . .
If there were two people least prepared to launch a business like this, it has to be Laura and me. We have no formal retail experience, and neither one of us is exactly a wine snob. We love wine, though, and since we saw a market opportunity in Auburn for something like Carpe Vino, we decided to do it. We were mentored by my childhood friend, Alixe Lischett, a wine store and restaurant owner in Chicago and her partner Dave Batt. For the most part, though, it was all on the job training, from designing the store to managing (and doing) construction to buying the wine.
There are lots of things to recommend the wine business, but there are three clear advantages: First, just about every person who enters our store departs a happier person. Second, our vendors and winery partners have formed a chorus to rally our success, and they are all great people, period. And, third, our stock only gets better the older it gets. There is virtually no waste or spoilage! If there are every any leftovers, oh well.
Running a business like this is a lot different that building it. First, there are the hours. We spend a lot of time in the store, helping customers, stocking shelves, ordering and cleaning. The cleaning never ends, and neither do the cracker crumbs. It seems as though I never stop thinking about what we need to do next–get the web site launched, find new wines, get down to Paso Robles, and on and on. It is all consuming.
One major discovery is that ours is a dynamic business. The wines keep changing, for starters. Vintages run out, we get rid of something that did not work or we simply find new wines and wine makers. This all involves shifting stock in the shop, and often means building new wine racks. So far, Drew and I have constructed 23 from scratch out of clear redwood. They are simply beautiful.Change, change, change. The customers come and go, and we don’t usually have a clue about why. But there always seem to be new faces and we’re always asking “Whatever happened to _____________?” Distributor reps change constantly, almost like the weather. Even our neighbors change as new businesses come and go.
What has made Carpe Vino successful early on, I think, is the fact that both Laura and I have long experience in sales and marketing. We’re applying the principles we’ve learned in business in our own little retail operation. Just as importantly, we weren’t encumbered with any formal understanding of the retail industry or the wine business, so we’ve done some pretty creative things on our own. Plus we work hard. Too damned hard.
About Drew, in Dad’s Words . . .
How tough is it today for young people to figure out what they want to do in life? When I was Drew’s age, I had Vietnam; he has the Middle East and a world plagued with terror. It’s tough to stay focused with everything swirling, as if it wasn’t hard enough during more serene times.
One day May Drew moved from near Chicago, where he was in school, to live in Auburn and try to figure out want he really wants to do with his life. College has been a struggle, but in the time he has lived in California, Drew has committed himself to the notion of finishing. He plans to go to Sac State, and he’s working at Winchester Country Club and Carpe Vino until he can enroll as a full time student. He’s working hard, and with the right attitude and energy, I know he finally make it.
Drew is Carpe Vino’s secret weapon. Everyone loves my 21-year-old son, especially the ladies–of any age. An only child, Drew has the confidence of someone with a decade’s more life experience, and he can engage anyone in conversation. He is a handsome young man, and he’s polite.
I really enjoy watching Drew work with customers. He actually sells. He asks qualifying questions and then recommends wines. Then he recommends more. The astounding thing is that his customers listen to him, and they take his advice. . .primarily because he knows what he’s talking about. When it comes to wine, Drew has been a good student. He’s got his favorites, of course, but he doesn’t rely on a couple of sure bets. He’s into a wide range of wines, and has gone on several trips to Napa and Sonoma on this own to find new stuff.
What has really been rewarding for me is that Drew has demonstrated an interest in and a genuine curiosity about wine. Plus, he is forming his own opinions. The only thing somewhat annoying about the young man is that he always wants to take home the good stuff. Where I would opt for a modest wine, Drew is ready to try a great bottle. For crying out loud, you’d think he owns a wine store.