Lorie Honor, who’s contributed to OWJ in the past, opened her own wine store in Staten Island just in time for Hurricane Sandy.
After years of dreaming, months of planning, a summer supervising construction, we finally had an appointment to pick up our Wine License from the NYS Liquor Authority in Harlem on Monday October, 29th so that we could open our wine shop, Honor Wines, later in the week. We never made it to that appointment because NY shut down that week, Sandy slammed Staten Island and nothing about opening our business went according to plan. The aftermath of Sandy left our fellow Staten Islanders reeling. Our neighbors in the gorgeous condo community Bay Street Landing evacuated and returned to shocking damage, most of our fellow North Shore residents were without power and the harrowing stories to the shore areas were yet to be told due to the inexplicable news black out.
Riding my bike to the shop on Tuesday, afraid of what I might find, I was relieved. There was no damage to the shop, despite our proximity to the harbor, and gratefully we were one of the few in St. George with electricity. I felt privileged to open the shop on Tuesday to the community. I had no wine to sell, and no license to sell any so nothing to offer but a clean space so our neighbors could sit in our shop charge their phones and laptops and tell their day-after stories. I opened what little wine we had and just “sampled” who ever came in to chat and re-charge.
Wed. night, in a surreal midnight run, we drove through a blacked-out Manhattan to the well lit Hell’s Kitchen, to pick up our liquor license from an angel from the State Liquor Authority, who had called me Tuesday to say she had taken it home with her because the NYSLA offices on Lennox and 125th Street were closed indefinitely. I cried a little when I hugged my full-service licensing agent and thanked her for her ridiculous kindness. “Be good licensees!”, she said as we drove out sight! So much for heartless bureaucrats.
The next day was spent e-mailing our license and setting up valid accounts with our vendors and begging for wine deliveries. No one was sure if deliveries could come out of New Jersey warehouses much less delivered to Staten Island. But by late Friday afternoon, hundreds of cases of wine arrived thanks to our distributors, reps, and drivers, wine -angels all and we hastily set-up shop and began to “serve” our community. That night and all weekend beleaguered and thirsty St. Georgians came out to support us, to thank us for being open, and congratulate us on our beautiful shop, which was a bright spot for them in an otherwise very bleak week. That Sunday we cheered on throngs of would-be marathoners who ran past the shop on their way to take the Staten Island ferry back to the city after having volunteered in our hardest hit area…making Staten Island their unexpected destination of the NY Marathon instead of their starting off point.
Sandy has made the start of our business a bit quieter but much more personal. No big week of nightly tastings with gala opening party as planned. We’ve swapped our meager advertising budget for a giving plan to help our friends rebuild their house. The storefront sign we didn’t have the time to install is still not up and there’s no lettering on the shop windows yet. But word-of-mouth is spreading and it’s sort of cool to have the business grow in a neighborly way. It’s not exactly how we planned it. But neither is the way we started. And I think, like the rest of Staten Island, we’ll do just fine.
Honor Wines is a neighborhood wine shop specializing in small yield, well-crafted, value wines, many of which are natural,organic or biodynamic. We’re located across from the Staten Island Ferry at 36 Bay Street.