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Wood flooring and accent lighting add to the store's appeal and warmth

Featured Article

Great Wines, Elevated Experience

The Relocated and Renovated Great Wines and Spirits Provides Top-Notch Customer Service

Article by Jeannie Tabor

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

Great Wines and Spirits, formerly located in the Regalia Shopping Center, has been relocated, renovated and reborn under new ownership. The mission, however, is unchanged. “We like to think of our store as a wine-first operation, similar to what Gary Burhop, the original owner, intended when the store first opened,” says new owner Robert Fogelman. Based on Great Wines’ long-standing reputation as a premium purveyor of fine wine and spirits, Fogelman and co-owner Joe Jarratt jumped at the opportunity to buy the business. Gary recommended bringing on industry veteran Richie Lewis as store manager. Richie has decades of experience on the liquor business’s retail and wholesale sides and is supported by a fantastic supporting cast.

Now located across from Oak Hall on Poplar and adjacent to Starbucks, the refurbished Great Wines has a new vibe. “We redesigned the store’s interior to make it a more inviting customer experience. We added wood flooring, accent lighting and a softer color palette. Since the beginning, we have intended to create an environment where our customers want to hang out and experience all aspects of our store. One of our favorite areas is the soft seating area near the fireplace, where folks can take a load off and sample some of our goods. We even have a vintage turntable provided to us by our friend, Josh Lackie. There are always relaxing tunes playing in the background, making the customer experience more enjoyable”, says Joe.

Great Wines and Spirits offers top-notch customer service with a very knowledgeable staff. Robert says, “Part of our philosophy is to share with customers the passion and celebration inherent to wine and all that goes into it. We bring items you would not find elsewhere to the market and staff to guide you through the shopping experience if you choose.”

On a recent trip to the store, I inquired about trying a new wine for that evening’s dinner at home. My wine selections do not vary much, so I mentioned that my “go-to” for red wine has been a pinot noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon. I like a lighter, smooth finish with more subtle hints of fruit, earthiness and spice. When Richie offered up a 2021 Beaujolais from France, I was skeptical. Richie assured me that this was not the Beaujolais Nouveau that I was familiar with and that it was prepared similarly to other subtle, polished pinots I enjoy. So, I tentatively purchased one bottle and returned when they opened to clear the rack the following day. Because Richie immediately understood what I enjoyed, he let me be adventurous by leading me to a new varietal and region that was sure to please.

The staff’s dedication to their customers and knowledge of their products comes from a unique sense of participation and ownership in their industry. When Richie started at Great Wines, he ensured that all employees could participate in the day-to-day operations and the overall profitability. “I wanted the store to have a shared feeling of ownership among all the staff members. If one of my team feels strongly about a product, we will carry it. We act as a team. I want the staff to be both excited about our products, which translates when we are helping customers select a spirit that is perfect for them, and to feel genuinely excited about the company’s future growth.”

Events are another avenue of growth and increased accessibility for Great Wines. Their largest events are known as Deep Dives and take place on the water at Shelby Farms. These occasions have hundreds of wines available to taste and winemakers and importers with an incredible breadth of knowledge available to offer insight. They are catered with a live jazz band and an outstanding sunset view over the water. Richie has also created various events at the store, including his favorite: Vinyl & Vermouth. “This event features cocktails and unique spirits paired with records played on our refurbished 1978 Ardent speakers and record player.”

The store also carries a wide range of spirits, beer and mixers, but the true goal is to maintain a representation of styles and regions in every category with a focus on quality. “We want to make the store an informational tool through which people can learn and grow alongside us,” says Richie. “We want to promote a sense of inclusivity in both price point and access. For example, the elimination of half pints enables us to redistribute our budget for things that we are genuinely excited to introduce.”

Great Wines serves a wonderful mix of business and residential customers in a vibrant, centrally located part of town. They have also added several premium-sized parking spaces for easy access at the front of the store.

Giving back to the community is important to Robert and Joe, who feel that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. “We are proud to be part of the vibrant, local small business ecosystem that gives Memphis such great character. Through wine dinners, cross-promotion and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations, we hope to grow our business and highlight the unique community that Memphis has made for itself.”

“Part of our philosophy is to share with customers the passion and celebration inherent to wine and all that goes into it." - Robert Fogelman 

  • Customers can sample products and just hang out in this comfortable seating area.
  • Great Wines' knowledgeable staff is always available to help customers select the perfect spirit.
  • Similar to its original mission, Great Wines is a wine-first operation
  • Wood flooring and accent lighting add to the store's appeal and warmth