Bay Area businesses are starting to open up after three months of sheltering in place. One of those is Bay Grape in Oakland.
On Tuesday, the bottle shop announced that it will start a trial for in-person sales with limited hours on May 27. Before this, the shop only offered pickup for online orders.
"So much of the soul of what we do has really been stripped away," says co-owner Stevie Stacionis, who typically gives customers lots of personalized attention, matchmaking them with rare wines suited to their tastes. "It's honestly felt really lonely. I'm still not confident about what needs to happen to let guests in, but there's no reason to not play sommelier, to bring back that curated experience."
With the new model, customers still won't be allowed into the store. Instead, they'll wait outside, wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines. While they can still preorder online, this new option allows them to consult Bay Grape staff about particular wines and get suggestions. It's a little like browsing the store without going inside.
A recent conversation with a customer reminded Stacionis of what she misses most about her old ways of doing business. Now, she hopes to recreate the social aspect of the store on a smaller scale and with adherence to public health regulations. "It was a special occasion with her partner, and she wanted to pick up a bottle of Barolo or Barbera from a certain vintage," Stacionis recalls. She didn't know if she would have something that rare, but after going to the back, she ended up finding a bottle and asking the woman if she knew about the grape or region. The woman said no, and Stacionis started to explain the story of the wine.