Vintner’s Circle is a lifestyle business that enables people to enjoy wine, wine making and wine education. Our warm, comfortable retail winemaking shops are designed to make winemaking easy and fun and provide an atmosphere where our customers can enjoy time alone or with friends.
In Part 1 of our Vintner’s Circle interview series, David Schmeltzle explains the Vintner’s Circle retail wine store concept.
Top New Franchises: Tell us about the Vintner’s Circle store concept.
David Schmeltzle: Vintners Circle creates a fun and self-fulfilling environment where individuals or groups of friends can meet to learn about wine making and handcraft their own wines. The Vintners Circle wine education series, in partnership with Wine Spectator and the Wine Spectator School, rounds out our commitment to the wine lifestyle.
We typically have two types of customers: those who make wine at home and those looking to make wine in our shops. Our retail store provides all the equipment, supplies and raw materials home winemakers need. Those who make wine in our stores can choose between individual and group sessions. We take care of all the equipment preparation and cleanup. We guide our customers through four simple steps about thirty minutes in duration spread out over seven weeks.
Top New Franchises: How did you come up with the idea for Vintner’s Circle?
David Schmeltzle: My wife and I had traveled to Napa to celebrate a wedding anniversary. We became hooked on the “wine lifestyle” and winemaking and began looking for opportunities to have a vineyard and make wine. We quickly realized that we didn’t have enough knowledge to create the quality of wine we were accustomed to drinking. Nor was the climate in New Jersey as conducive to grape growing as it is in California.
My grandfather had made wine and I wanted to learn to make high-quality wine. We decided not to grow grapes and didn’t want to be limited to producing wine only twice a year at harvest time (fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere). Crushing grapes and making 270 bottles of the same type of wine wasn’t practical for us. We liked too many different types of wine and wanted to create a variety of wine.
That led us to find varietal juice suppliers that enabled us to make six gallons – about 28 bottles of wine – at a time. We started making wine this way in our basement and we were hooked. Our concept took shape with a desire to create a retail winemaking shop that guided people through winemaking. We created a fun, entertaining retail store / winemaking environment where people feel relaxed and enjoy themselves while learning about wine and winemaking.
Top New Franchises: How many franchises are up and running?
David Schmeltzle: We have one company owned winemaking shop. We operate our franchise development and support team from office space in our company owned winemaking shop. We have a franchise in PA that is in transition to a new owner. A friend of mine started that franchise with the intent of growing and selling it. And we just launched a new franchise in Whippany, NJ. The Whippany store is currently in the build-out stage and is expected to open soon.
We are also very excited that our customers are becoming franchisees. We are currently working on several more locations whose franchise owners are customers who made wine with us.
Top New Franchises: Where are you looking to expand?
David Schmeltzle: We are building brand recognition quickly in the areas surrounding the stores we open. We plan on focusing our franchise growth regionally, initially throughout NY, NJ, CT and PA. We’re looking for experienced area developers to launch and grow the SC, NC, and VA markets.
Top New Franchises: What types of markets and demographics work best?
David Schmeltzle: Our customers enjoy the wine lifestyle and are typically 40-65 years of age. We have an equal balance of men and women who make wine by themselves, and groups who make wine together.
Top New Franchises: Tell us a little bit about the kind of person who would make a good Vintner’s Circle franchise owner.
David Schmeltzle: Winemaking is a very social activity. Franchisees must be comfortable with effectively communicating with people. We’ve noticed that people who have a passion for life and enjoy social activities, wine and entertaining perform well at managing a winemaking shop. Chances of success diminish if a franchisee is not comfortable managing social interactions or giving instructional advice to people.
The craft of winemaking is often very personal, even “artistic” to a degree. Vintners Circle uses a very structured system to consistently create high-quality wines. Our customers have come to love this consistency and guarantee of quality. Franchisees must be able to follow the systems developed while adding the personal touch for customers though custom labeling and bottling options.
The two most important attributes we are looking for in franchisees are the ability to interact socially and a commitment to using the franchised system.
Top New Franchises: What makes Vintner’s Circle different from other franchise opportunities? How is it a unique opportunity?
David Schmeltzle: Americans’ love of wine continues to grow. And Americans continue to seek out and learn more about wine and the wine lifestyle. Vintner’s Circle serves a niche market with high-quality products. Vintner’s Circle is driven to provide top-shelf customer service.
Vintner’s Circle is unique in that it delivers a system that makes winemaking easy and wine education fun. Quite often, the wine lifestyle seems unapproachable to too many people.
We are dedicated to our team, and expect the same dedication in return from our franchisees. To make sure there is a great fit with a prospective franchisee, before Vintners Circle grants a franchise agreement we invite the prospective franchisee to spend a discovery week with us. We want our prospective franchisees to be comfortable with our franchise concept and business systems. We also want to be comfortable with our prospective franchisees.
Top New Franchises: Thanks a lot David.
David Schmeltzle: Thanks for the opportunity.
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For more information, visit Vintner’s Circle