In early October, New Jersey retailer Gary’s Wine & Marketplace—which saw revenues reach approximately $58 million last year—became a bicoastal operation with the launch of its first West Coast unit, located in Napa Valley. The new store, located off St. Helena Highway in St. Helena, California, is across the street from Louis M. Martini winery and takes over a space left vacant by longtime occupant Dean & DeLuca, the Wichita, Kansas-based upscale grocery chain that saw numerous store closures in 2019.
Dean & DeLuca’s St. Helena location was a neighborhood gem that had been treasured by both locals and tourists for its gourmet foods, freshly brewed coffee, and extensive beverage alcohol selection. Gary’s owner Gary Fisch, a longtime Napa visitor, had made countless stops at the store himself over the years. “It was my main coffee stop, and I’d go over to the wine department to look at the labels I hadn’t heard of yet,” he says. Fisch visited the store as it was beginning to shutter in early 2019, and knew he would have to take action—he’d been looking for a way to break into Napa for years. He signed a lease and started the hiring process, reaching out to chefs, wine experts, and managers he knew in the area.
“Napa’s been my second home for a long time,” Fisch says. “I know as many people here as I do in New Jersey.” He put together a staff “rapid-fire” and then renovated the space, redoing the wooden floors, painting the walls, and ordering new equipment to create a welcoming environment. “I wanted to bring back something that everybody was missing,” Fisch says. “I’m really trying to be a home to the local people.”
While Dean & DeLuca focused its wine selection on Napa offerings, Gary’s is wide-ranging, boasting 84 SKUs of fine wines—which Fisch defines as bottles over $250 or highly allocated labels that are rare at retail—as well as 400 SKUs of domestic wines, 300 SKUs of international wines, and 40 SKUs of Champagne and sparkling wines. Notable Napa wines include the 2016 Tor Kenward Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon ($155 a 750-ml.), 2016 Seven Stones Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($208), 2012 Promontory Napa Valley Bordeaux blend ($800), 2014 Bond Grand Cru ($750), and 2016 M. Etain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($176). Popular international offerings include the 2015 Masseto ($775), 2016 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge ($315), 2017 Arnaud Mortet Mazoyères-Chambertin Grand Cru ($593), 2017 Domaine Leflaive Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane Premier Cru ($240), and 2014 Penfolds Grange ($750). The store also offers about 60 wines under $25. All bottles are displayed in three large sections—international, domestic, and discount—and then grouped by AVA or region.
Gary’s also offers 24 wines by the glass at a tasting station, where customers can sip while they shop. Fisch has already started seeing people experiment in their tasting. “Customers are so excited to have alternative options to taste—they’re trying new things and buying them to take home,” he says, adding that Napa tourists are especially enjoying the taps because they can try products from wineries they weren’t able to visit on their trip.
The 10,800-square-foot store also carries approximately 80 SKUs of beer, from Sierra Nevada pale ale ($12 a 6-pack of 12-ounce cans), Modelo Especial ($18 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans), and Founders Breakfast stout ($13 a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles) to Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Elder IPA ($72 a 12-pack of 17.2-ounce bottles) and Saison ale ($13 a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans) from HenHouse Brewing Co. The store boasts two reach-in beer coolers.
In terms of spirits, Gary’s offers 300 SKUs. Popular Bourbons include Blanton’s ($56 a 750-ml.), Elmer T. Lee ($47), and Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel ($63), and Fisch sees single malt Scotches like Oban 14-year-old ($81), Macallan 12-year-old Double Cask ($67), and Glenrothes 18-year-old ($146) trending. Other notable spirits include such Tequilas as Clase Azul Reposado ($110), Casamigos Añejo ($56), and Don Julio 1942 ($152), as well as gins like St. George Botanivore ($35), Bimini Barrel Reserve No. 1 ($39), and Ginny’s ($31).
Gary’s also offers more than 200 cheeses and other gourmet products like charcuterie, as well as breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, fresh-baked bread, olive oil, and unique coffee blends. Everything is sourced as locally as possible, and Fisch describes the selection as having “a Napa sensibility with a New Jersey energy.” Eventually, a section of New Jersey products will be added. The store offers a few high tables, but no chairs are allowed due to zoning restrictions, so customers generally grab and go, Fisch says. Additionally, following in the footsteps of Dean & DeLuca, Gary’s will be providing catering and concierge services—a completely new element for Fisch. “It’s a very upscale and friendly store offering an enjoyable, high-quality experience,” he says.
Thus far, Gary’s has received positive feedback from Napa locals, with customers enthusiastic that the vacant space has been filled. Fisch, who sees customer satisfaction as key, says people come in as early as 7 a.m. for breakfast and coffee, with traffic resuming around noon when the store transitions into a lunch destination. Wine shoppers flow in and out of the store all evening. “The reception we’re getting is actually better than I would’ve hoped,” Fisch says. “Customers are excited to have someone new in town, and our team is being offered a lot of wine to sell.”
Fisch’s staff, which includes his son, is now working to improve the store’s mobile app and other technological components such as new handheld shopping assistants. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Fisch recently launched one-hour delivery of wine, beer, spirits, and food through tech firm City Hive and delivery platform Bringoz; customers can now receive deliveries on orders of $25 and up within 60 minutes if they’re within a 4-6 mile radius of one of the store locations.
Fisch originally founded his business in Madison, New Jersey in 1987, and has gone on to open three more Garden State locations in Closter, Wayne, and Bernardsville (Liz Fisch, Gary’s wife, owns the latter two). Over the years, the stores have become renowned for product selection and customer service. Fisch now has a five-unit operation to oversee, though he’s keeping future expansion in mind. “Now we’re a national company,” he says. “I’m going to be slow and steady and make sure everything runs smoothly here in Napa, taking one step at a time. I’ve literally crossed the country to recreate my dream.”