CLEVELAND, Ohio – Heinen’s opened its doors in a proper manner Wednesday – by popping corks on Champagne bottles, welcoming shoppers with samples and smiles.
Ed Thompkins, wine and beer buyer for Heinen’s, busied himself serving $58 Moet & Chandon sparkler, each bottle draped in an elegant pink shawl of sorts.
“It was a huge team effort,” he said between pours. “The object is to make this a destination.”
Attention was paid to the wine and beer departments at the Euclid Avenue store. Here are five things to know:
Where to go
Want top sip or buy? Head upstairs. The second floor is almost exclusively beer and wine. Offerings are diverse, not only in selection but in sizes – a necessity if the store will accomplish its destination goal for downtown shoppers.
WineStations are positioned in several places. These automatic, wine-dispensing vending machines charge different prices for three different sizes – a taste, 3-ounce and 5-ounce pours. Prices range from $1 for a taste to more than $16 for the largest. It’s all based on bottle price, and a great way to give a wine a trial spin, so to speak. Haven’t had that BV Tapestry Blend? Is it worth $67? Taste and decide. Two 16-bottle stations are dedicated to an assortment of varietals, while two four-bottle dispensers are devoted to specific ones, like a quartet of California Chardonnays.
The WineStation works like this: It’s similar to a debit card. Load it up at the register when you walk in with whatever amount you want. Money you don’t spend is retained on the card. Pick what you want, push a button, and Argon gas is released as a preserver. With the system, bottles can stay fresh for as many as 60 days, but “they never last that long,” said Bob Fishman, wine and beer manager. Staffers can control bottle temperature to within one degree, he said.
The downtown location is the third Cleveland-area store with a WineStation, Fishman said. Pepper Pike and Twinsburg also have them, as do all the Chicago Heinen’s.
“We expect this to do really well,” Fishman said. “If you’ve never had a certain Bordeaux, you can taste it here. We did a little bit of everything.”
Varietal and geography are not the only ways the 1,600-plus bottles are broken down:
• An impressive half-bottle selection is offered across several shelves, as are several Jeroboams, three-liter bottles.
• Bin 55 holds wines under $10. “We individualize our wine departments, but this is corporate-driven. It’s a very popular section. This is a no-frills section,” said Fishman, who added bottles are changed out about once a month.
• Like highly rated wines? Club 92 is for you. These are wines rated by established media – Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spector and the like – that score 92 and above.
• Organic, kosher and Ohio wines are sold, as are box wines and Tetra packs – 500ml, three-portion box wines.
• Liquor supply is nominal. In keeping with other Heinen’s, the downtown store does not have a full liquor license; 42 proof is the maximum measurement allowed. So while Margarita mixers and other bottles are available, don’t expect much more.
Beer, beer, beer
• More than 100 cases worth of craft beer, more than 100 singles and three dozen bomber bottles line shelves.
• A growler station offers eight taps, including a pair of very different locals, for now: Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.’s Bernese Barley Wine Ale and Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s High Striker.
• Growlers – 32-ounce and 64-ounce bottles – are sold and filled with the beer of your choice.
• An impish touch from Thompkins: Six-packs from Elevator Brewing Co. in Columbus are positioned next to – of course – the elevator.
• Having a huge party and want to load up? Look elsewhere. No suitcases – 24-can cartons – are sold in the downtown store.
Thompkins said wine events will be held at the store, with the inaugural one coming at 4 p.m. Friday when winemaker Michael Pozzan will greet guests and pour six wines from his Oakville, California, winery. “It’s a great experience for a customer to have a chance to meet him, and I imagine more winemakers will want to come in,” he said. (Great Lakes will tap Rotunda Pale Ale at 3 p.m. today at the store and then later at the Ohio City brew pub.)
When shopping, a customer’s objective is to get out of a store as fast as possible,” Thompkins said. “With this store we want them to be captivated, not just captive.”