Bridgewater Wines Continues To Connect With The Community
We love browsing a wine shop, taking advantage of the staff’s knowledge to help us choose the perfect bottle. We asked Doug and Susan Zucker how they are adapting to not having customers in the store. They’ve come up with some great ways to keep their wine shop experience alive.
What changes have you made to adapt to the new rules? What were the challenges and how have you overcome them?
The biggest change is making the change to takeout from sitting at the bar to eat and drink. We had to quickly get new supplies that we didn’t have before, things like takeout containers to accommodate everything on our menu. We also started to offer curbside pickup of food, wine and beer. We are continuously cleaning and sanitizing between customers and limiting the number of customers in the store at one time for everyone’s safety. Trivia Mike who hosts Tuesday Trivia at Bridgewater Wines still hosts Trivia on Tuesday evenings but virtually- it’s a lot of fun.
What did you learn as you’ve changed things up that you think will help you as we move forward into more normal times?
Takeout is definitely something we’ll continue to offer going forward; people enjoy being able to recreate the Bridgewater food and wine experience at-home. Many of our guests purchase the takeout food and ask for the perfect wine pairing to go along with it. We carry many different beers from many Wilmington Breweries, some of them you can only get on this side of the bridge here at Bridgewater Wines. We have found that customers would much rather purchase their beer from us and avoid going over the bridge. We are also able to get hard to get essential supplies that the big box stores are out of. As a community service we offered things such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, disinfectant spray etc. at our wholesale cost to our customers. We were happy that we had access to the essential supplies that so many people needed. The praise and thanks we received was extremely touching.
What can you point to that you learned while building your business that has helped you through this?
From our opening in late 2018 we used social media and emails to not only build awareness and communicate to our customers, but also to create relationships. This past two months we’ve relied even more heavily on communicating to people via social media and emails. We’re posting videos multiple times a week featuring specific wines; food specials, and general “pick-me-up” messages. We’ve received tremendous feedback on those videos. We are trying to send positive messages while also being sensitive to the current global situation.
Can you speak to community support? What has been your experience? What is the importance of supporting small businesses?
The response from the area frankly blew us away. Countless people bought gift cards early on; customers would call the store just to make sure we were doing ok and paying the bills. Several wine club members offered to pre-pay a full year if that would help us out. We have customers that order take out food from us multiple times a week to show their support. That was so touching to us both, the fact that we had reached so deep into the community consciousness in less than a year and a half is something we’ll never forget or take for granted.
What role has technology or social media played? Is this something that was a strength for you already or have you had to gear up?
We’ve always had a strong presence on social media - you really have to these days to keep guests engaged. In addition to what we mentioned earlier, the wines that we have up on our website have all become best-sellers, presumably as people are browsing our site before ordering wine. We are also able to post weekly food specials which have become very popular. We even had a Sunday virtual Zoom happy hour with our team members and guests that wished to join us.
Have you been in contact with other businesses in your area or ones like yours? Are you sharing ideas? Brainstorming? Just offering an ear that understands?
All of us in Ocean Gate Plaza have been talking about what’s going on and how we can support each other. Tony at Michelakis Family Dentistry and Wes and Ashley at Hickman’s Pharmacy are wonderful people.