Corkscrew Wines Brooklyn has been in its space on Myrtle Avenue for one year and is Owner Karin Torres’ second store in Brooklyn. Growing up, wine was always a big part of everyday life in Karin’s family. Her Dad was an aficionado and buying wine, appreciating wine and having it on the table with dinner at night was always important. Karin inherited this appreciation and was curious about why it tasted the way it did, where it was from and so on. After working in fashion for a couple of years she realized that she wanted to own her own business and work for herself so she decided to strike out and open her own wine store. Today Corkscrew Wines Brooklyn serves a variety of wine from all around the world and prides itself on offering a large selection of wine from women growers and wine makers.
Why did you become an age-friendly business?
I first started to think about being age-friendly because of my mother. She is getting older now and starting to encounter age related handicaps a little more year after year. After seeing this, I started to think to myself about how these can impact your life. As you get old you don’t have the same mobility and hearing as you did when you were young and it occurred to me you don’t have the strength to do things that you used to – like carrying a case of wine home from the store. My mother constantly tells me that she doesn’t like to shop in some stores because the music is too loud, because they have a big step that is hard for her to go over, or because the price stickers and tags are too small for her to read. I’ve also noticed things like this myself more lately as well since I just had a new baby. Things that are hard for older adults are often hard for the stroller crowd too. Now I will walk down the street and suddenly notice all of these steps and bumps that I’ve always taken for granted!
Age-friendliness isn’t foreign to me, it’s just good customer service to accommodate as many people as possible in your store. My style of business is to create an environment that is accessible, clean and safe. I think of customers the same way I would about having guests over to my living room. If the music is blaring and people can’t hear (especially those with hearing aids) then I’m not being a very good host. Besides, older adults account for around one third of my business. They have many traditional meals for holidays and occasions and usually want a classic wine to go with a classic dish. We try to understand what is on their table and make sure that we give them time to browse and ask questions to pick the wine that feels good for them. Being aware of things like speaking directly to people, providing good customer service, slowing down a little when explaining things, and making sure we are having a real interaction with each customer is just a sign of respect. Our General Manager Christy said that for her grandparents wine is one thing they can enjoy no matter what condition they are in, sick, healthy etc. It is a very personal thing to buy a bottle of wine, to bring it home and to pair it with something you made and if we take the time to pay attention to people’s needs as they go about doing this, it will make for really loyal customers, but really it makes us feel good too. At the end of the day, customer service is key. Anyone can sell wine, but you have to make people feel comfortable to do it well.
What are some of your unique age-friendly services?
We already have many age-friendly features, and by that I mean friendly for people of all ages, older people, people with kids, people in wheelchairs etc. We have nice wide aisles and most products within easy reach. We also have a bench at the front of the store people can sit on and will bring out water and more seating if needed. We will hold customer’s bags behind the counter while they shop and have a sticker box to keep kids busy while their parents shop. In the future we plan to shave down the opening in our door to make it easier to get through, even though it is already handicapped accessible, and also to put our popular wines right in front of the store in easy reach for people who know what they want.
However, I think the biggest age-friendly feature of our business is customer service. We always treat customers with the utmost respect and accommodate their needs while trying our best not to make anyone uncomfortable because of their abilities. One example of this is that we always offer to bring packages out to customer’s cars and offer free delivery to older adults with no minimum. Honestly we don’t have a specific age for this service and aren’t going to card anyone. We also offer the service to customers we know just had kids or can’t get out of the house for whatever reason. It’s about using your best judgment to see who might need a free delivery service to safely and comfortably get their purchases home. In fact many of my older customers get annoyed with me when I try to hold the door and would never dream of using a “senior” discount or delivery. They just want to be treated like everyone else and not feel singled out. We are very aware of how we help people.
I’ve also noticed that many older adults come in to buy wine as part of a weekly routine, so I try to make sure that they have a great experience when they come in. We have a database to remember all of their purchases and can make recommendations about new products. It also allows us to make sure that we stock the particular wine or type of wine on days we know someone usually shops. This makes customers of all ages feel appreciated, but especially older adults who can’t always jump online and find out about new wines or go to another store farther away to find what they want. It’s about taking time to get to know our regular customers, especially the older ones. For them coming here and picking out wine, chatting with us and telling us stories, getting recommendations, bringing that wine home and serving it with dinner, these are all important to them because it shows that they maintaining independence in their lives.
We also realize that a lot of older people are on fixed budgets and can’t always afford expensive wine. So we make sure that we provide a variety of wines at different price points that are still quality products. Also we make sure to treat every customer the same, no matter if they buy the $10 or the $100 wine. We aren’t like those fancy stores in Manhattan that won’t give you the time of day unless you spend a lot of money. We offer the same packaging, gift wrapping and service with the same exact smile, no matter what you buy.
Would you recommend becoming age-friendly to other businesses?
Yes, we would absolutely recommend it. First of all, it really has helped me as a business owner who is new to the block. Many older adults in this neighborhood have lived here all their lives and are creatures of habit, they will go to the same stores unless you have something remarkable. So if you have a great product and treat them right, they will come to your store and bring others with them. If you don’t treat them right, they won’t give you a try and won’t tell their friends and family to as well. We are very familiar with the power of older adults and word of mouth referrals. For example, we have a lot of women, many older, who come get together in the neighborhood for quilting, book clubs, meetings etc. and we are now providing them with wine. We know that when the leader of the groups stops by on Wednesdays to pick out wine she will want something nice for her friends and that they tend to like sweet wines so we are ready to go. All of the people in groups like these talk to each other and give great word of mouth advertising. Eventually news trickled down that we had opened and were providing a great product and exceptional service and we had new customers come in as a result. Also I think older adults respect small businesses more than others. They like buying things from people, not from big companies and have seen their neighborhood change and evolve around them. Small businesses have that personal interaction you can’t get in a big box store or online and older adults appreciate that more because that is how the neighborhood has been in the past and they want to support that.
I would tell other business owners that you have to remember that you are running a retail store because you want to sell things. To choose to omit a segment of valuable customers is ludacris. Why wouldn’t you make sure you have products that appeal to them or make accommodations so they can actually shop at your store? I understand that there has to be a capital investment involved but really you are investing in things that are going to make people way more loyal. Also you never know who you are helping because everyone is different. Maybe in your neighborhood older adults have lots of money and there are tons of students who are on a budget. Making sure you have a variety of products that different people could buy would help them too in that case. Really my philosophy is that older adults have lived this long and now that they are in the autumn of their lives they deserve, just like everyone else, to enjoy a nice bottle of wine.
Corkscrew Wines is open daily from 12:00PM to 9:00PM and delivers upon request. They also have weekly wine tastings and will bring in wine makers to talk about their products. On Wednesdays they have a special tasting called Women and Wine where they will provide education about and tastings of bottles by female wine producers.
They are also a weekly pick-up location for a neighborhood CSA and suggest wine pairings for the CSA items and a discount for members. Corkscrew Wines Brooklyn also puts together holiday packs featuring holiday appropriate wines that are good to pair with traditional dishes. Visit Corkscrew Wines today and pick up a delicious bottle (or two) of wine while enjoying expert product advice and the best customer service you will ever find!
Corkscrew Wines is located at 489 Myrtle Ave in Brooklyn. You can visit their website and blog here or call them at 718-230-WINE (9463). - Facebook: corkscrewbrooklyn
- Instagram: @corkscrewbrooklyn
Are you interested in making your business or community age-friendly?
Email us at AgefriendlyNYC@nyam.org to learn more about how we can help.