Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why We Left....

You know, every once in a while something happens that makes me question myself.  Or why I'm in business.  Or why I tend not to engage my brain before putting my mouth in gear.

We recently had a review put on Tripadvisor (here's the link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g52265-d7303083-r357673480-Allegro_Winery-Brogue_Pennsylvania.html).  It's interesting in its tone, and believe me, like everything, there are two sides to the story.

At one time, our winery desperately needed the wine trail and the events that went along with it.  When our family took over Allegro, we were extremely under-capitalized.  I remember talking to a consultant and showed them the asking price....he said, wow, it will probably take twice that to get it back into shape.  We, of course, didn't have twice that amount.  Hell, we didn't even have that amount.  But through borrowing from family, credit cards, and AgChoice Farm Credit, we pulled off the sale.  After a year of running the winery, we realized we were up a creek with regards to sales.

The only thing we knew to do at that point to save our collective butts was to ramp up sales.  So, my wife Kris re-started the Mason-Dixon wine trail single-handedly.  (This was before the UnCork York wine trail was bequeathed the name.)  She was also part of the formation of the UnCork York wine trail.  (She was the one who came up with the name "Tour de Tanks"!)  We desperately needed the sales and exposure that these events brought us.

We did all the events, everything it took, and we stayed in business barely.  Just barely.  Then after a dozen years, we realized we still were around and hadn't closed our doors.  (And our loan officer started to make more positive comments--thanks, Bruce!)  It was at that point that we knew things were starting to change for the better for us.

Last year we looked back and noticed a few things.  In our desperation for sales, we had asked a lot of our staff.  They were the ones who had to put in the hours of pouring and talking about our wines (which they say they enjoyed!)  But they also had to put up with the bad situations, and these were becoming more and more frequent.

This all came to a head last year when a large group who had obviously been on the wine trail all day decided to make us their last stop.  We ended up having to refuse service to three women (something we have fortunately rarely had to do at the winery), and they ended up becoming belligerent.  Their boyfriends weren't happy about it either when they came inside after drinking beer in front of our winery.  Needless to say, this was one of the most unpleasant experiences for our staff, and something I don't ever wish to put them through again.  My staff mean a lot to me, and they are dedicated to Allegro and our wines.  But this was the limit.

So, out of respect for my staff, we have been trying to eliminate this element from our tasting room.  The first and easiest way was to drop out of the wine trail.  I know that doing so upset people out there, probably because we had a reputation for the best food spread on the trail.  And, even though the guy in the back (me) would rant on and on and say bad things about Chambourcin, people still came back.  

What we've noticed since leaving the trail is that we now sell more wine at our spring and fall events.  In the past, we would average about $11 in sales per person on the wine trail.  Without the wine trail, our average is up to over $40 per person usually.

Why is this?  I think it's because the people who now come out to our winery aren't coming out for a chance to drink some wine....they're coming out because they want a good tasting experience, they want to learn about the wines, and they want to purchase some to take home.  And that works out well for us, since we're a winery and not a bar or a nightclub or a restaurant.  Our customers tell us that they appreciate our signs about no large groups, no buses, no limos.  It makes their experience better, and my staff happier as well.  And that's what our winery is about.

So, yes, we don't need the wine trail anymore and we don't like dealing with drunks.  If that makes us arrogant, then so be it.  But for me, it's about taking care of my staff and taking care of the customers who take care of us.  And maybe not second-guessing myself so much anymore.

27 comments:

  1. Don't blame you one bit for dropping off.We have seen these type of people also on the tour.When we need some more of your fine wines we usually purchase it at your Morningstar stand...plus try some others.Will miss your food spread though...best of luck in the future...Mike

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    1. Thanks, Mike. They weren't bad people, just folks who seemed to not take us the way most folks do. Any case, thanks for supporting what we're doing!--Carl

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  2. No one likes dealing with rude people. Your product speaks for itself. Your staff is great, your wine is great & I applaud you for standing up for what YOU felt was the best thing for your company. You will be fine because you have a good heart. Hope to get some wine soon!! Good luck! --Sandy

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    1. Thanks, Sandy! I'm sure we could have handled the situation better in hindsight, but you know what they say, hindsight is 20/20....Cheers, Carl

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  3. Amen to firing bad customers. We've had to do it too. As Spock once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And the many say you all are doing a fine job, keep up the excellent work and we'll all be back to restock. :-) Dawn & John

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    1. Amen. Thank you both. Live long and prosper!
      --Carl

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  4. Wise choice Carl! No one needs to deal with situations like that!

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    1. It's part of the business deal, unfortunately. Luckily, most folks are nice, and wine makes them nicer! Thanks! --Carl

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  5. Just left you a positive review on "Trip Advisor". I encourage those that appreciate you and your winery to do so as well!

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    1. Thank you! (You didn't have to do that...but from one business to another, I truly appreciate it!) Cheers, Carl

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  6. Hi Carl, You and your employees have integrity, I applaud you for it. I have been at several events at the winery and the best part (besides the wine) is the conversation with the staff. One question from your blog:

    You stated "And, even though the guy in the back (me) would rant on and on and say bad things about Chambourcin, people still came back." I didn't know what to make of this statement as your Chambourcin is my favorite.

    R,Dave

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    1. Thanks for the kind words about our staff, Dave. As for Chambourcin, I truly believe that we make one of the better Chambourcins around. But, the perspective I have is that we'll never have a great Chambourcin (kind of an oxymoron....) But we will have great Merlots, and that's why I'll focus on that grape for the rest of my life....Cheers! Carl

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  7. Carl, we have been loyal customers for many years. It is so hard to even name a favorite because they are all good in their own right. Trust us, if you stayed with the Trail customers and didn't put a halt to drunken behavior, we would never come back. Just as in your life standards and your wine standards, keep them high and respectable. Both will serve you well. God Bless, Don & Frances

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    1. Thank you both for all your support through the years. We've taken flak for not being part of the trail recently, but thanks to folks like you we can stick to our principles. Cheers! --Carl

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  8. Hi Carl, We are so glad you're not on the wine trail. We've have more than one vineyard visit ruined by rowdy bus or limo full of people. Gosh, at one winery they were so drunk they were tripping over chairs and never stopped to say sorry or excuse me. Wine is meant to be an intimate experience between you and the person taking you through the tasting. Allegro has always given us the wine experience we are looking for and each time we leave we are already looking forward to our next visit. We had the pleasure of being able to spend time with you on all of our visits and your staff. Why on our first visit, I said, "I could stay here all day" and your staffer, sincerely said, "Please do!" By the way...I'm the lady who with her husband brought the photos from the Balitimore Sun. Kudos on preserving a nice wine experience for us folks who are there for the wine and the learning experience. In my opinion, if they are only interested in getting drunk, they should go to a bar. Wine culture is important to those of us who really enjoy it. We'll be back soon, Carl. - Laurie Nunez

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    1. Thanks for your kind and thoughtful email, Laurie! This world is full of all kinds of folks. And we can make and sell our product--wine or experience--to anyone. By limiting it to folks like you all, I think it's a win/win for both of us. Cheers! --Carl

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  9. P.S..left Allegro feedback on Trip Advisor!

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    1. Thanks (although you didn't have to, you know....)!

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  10. .....one reason we don't care to do the "wine trails" We love your wines, appreciate your courteous staff, and applaud your ability to do what works best for them and your venture. We aim to get up your way again soon to try out some of your new wines and bring a case home!

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for supporting local wines!

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  11. Hi Carl- Kudos to you for standing up for your staff, and the reputation of your wonderful winery! We don't get to the winery very often because we live about 2 hours away. But we truly enjoy our visits and tastings, and bring enough wine home to enjoy for a while. One of our favorite pleasures is wine tasting in a quiet setting, and listening to the staff talk passionately about the wines they are pouring.
    There was a time when we thought that having a limo or tour bus drive us to many different wineries would be ideal. But we find that our limit is 3 to 5 wineries with a meal and/or snacks in between is about all we can do without losing the senses in our taste buds. After all, that's what wine "tasting" is all about.
    Keep your head up, and keep doing what you do best- making great wine and making the majority of your customers happy. There will always be the folks who don't really appreciate the work that goes into making the wine, and those that drink to get drunk. Your loyal customers don't need the presence of those people.
    Eric and Bets Bloom ("WineTastersTwo" on TripAdviser).

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    1. Thank you for your great comment! You all get it....I know that in my younger days I had different priorities that didn't really jive with what I am doing now. Maybe back then I would have been a little more open to the limo/tour bus/thing, but these days I feel it's not the right thing for us. Glad you agree. Cheers! --Carl

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  13. Carl. I applaud you for the way you handled the situation. I know you said there are 2 sides to every story, but having been to your winery on many occasions and also visiting you at different festivals, seeing how you treat the customers and your staff I will side with you. You are a man of true integrity, which is also the same reason you have the best wines in PA. Knowing that we won't have to deal with beligerant people like that means I will be visiting your winery even more now.
    Sincerely, Tony Hippensteel

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  14. Thanks, Tony. It's seems to be these days that a vocal minority sometimes shapes the world more and more, for good or ill. This time probably for the better. Thanks for your support! --Carl

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