Spirits and Spice’s new location features a wall of wine

February 7, 2019

It’s been a year since Kim Weiss opted out of her franchise agreement with the global chain Vom Fass and rebranded her store as Spirits and Spice.

“It was the best thing we could have done,” Weiss said. “It was scary, but it has been very positive.”

So positive, in fact, that Weiss has moved from her small corner shop under Rare Gallery in the courtyard with Haagen-Dazs and By Nature Gallery to a storefront at 80 W. Broadway. The new location is about three times the size of the old one, giving Weiss more room for products and lending the store an airiness that makes it easy to move around.

When Weiss started the Vom Fass store she was confined by the chain’s requirements, which consisted mostly of high-end oils and vinegars, and she added things like whiskeys, liqueurs and scotches later. But with her newfound freedom Weiss has drastically increased her product lines to represent her new name.

“I have a joint venture with a friend from Las Vegas,” Weiss said. “She makes spices in her commercial kitchen, so they are unique to us.”

Many of the spices have recognizable uses, like rubs or Cajun-style seasonings, but many, like turmeric salt, are unlike the varieties you’ll find in a grocery store spice aisle. However, the big new draw is a proliferation of alcohol offerings.

“We’ve added 450 different wines,” Weiss said. “And we have about 70 kinds of craft beer.”

A floor-to-ceiling wine rack lines the back half of the store, filled with bottles dubbed “big, bold reds.” The wall of wine demonstrates Weiss’ organizational approach.

“Most liquor stores you go into have wines grouped by varietal or by region,” she said. “We’re doing it by flavor profile.”

Several islands dot the floor, filled with other types of wine. Organizing by flavor isn’t just a way to differentiate Spirits and Spice from other stores. By putting similarly priced malbecs next to Chiantis, Weiss hopes to push people out of their alcohol-buying ruts.

“It’s easy to buy the same wine and beer all the time,” she said. “Maybe it encourages you to try something you wouldn’t normally try.”

Though she is gluten-free and doesn’t drink much beer, Weiss — with the help of some knowledgeable employees — used the same strategy when she decided to stock beer in her new space. Four bright-red, 1950s-style refrigerators sit at the back of the store, flush with six-packs and bombers. The left-most fridge contains light beers — say, pilsners and lagers — while the right-most fridge holds porters and stouts.

In her eight years running the eclectic store Weiss has seen enough success to open stores in Sedona, Arizona, and Las Vegas. Even with the experience of launching two new locations, the move from one side of Jackson Town Square to the other was a haul.

“We discovered that moving a store is twice the amount of work as opening a new one,” she said.

Because high-end whiskeys, oils and vinegars can keep in casks or decanters, Weiss’ store has always been a “try before you buy” experience. But with the addition of wines and beers Weiss will have to be creative to allow people to sample the products. Having 450 open wines and 70 open beers would be impractical and would produce a lot of waste, so instead she plans to host weekly tasting events.

“We’ll put out a few bottles of wine or beer and put out some nibbles,” she said. “Anything you purchase during the event of the things being sampled you get 10 percent off.”

Though Weiss knows it may take some time for her regulars to become accustomed to the new location, she is upbeat about the move.

“We are very excited to be open in the new location,” she said. “I hope existing customers will come find us and others who walk in will love the selection.”

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