I just looked back at my March blog post. It was 3 months ago but feels like a lifetime. I’m not going to sugar coat it. These past few months for our business, our employees and our families have been rough, mentally and physically.
The low was probably the day I single-handedly worked the phone, e-comm and the tasting room because some scary statistics had just been released, and my team members were (rightfully) afraid to come in. I didn’t sleep that night. I went days with stress headaches. There were moments when I thought we’d have to close the business entirely.
The high was probably the day we announced our online Bridge Lane case sale. I expected to gross about $10K that week, we grossed almost $100K. We had to order and expedite more packing materials in the middle of the sale because we didn’t have enough! Our fans and friends showed up for us in a big way. It was overwhelming and exhilarating and exhausting. I don’t know how our shipper manager, Anthony, and our warehouse assistant, Jared, pulled it off. They say it’s a blur. That’s how I feel about most of the past few months.
I’m writing this from our front patio right now, which has re-opened to guests, and I feel…better.
Financially, Lieb Cellars is actually ok. Wholesale has suffered the most. With restaurants being closed in New York, we’ve lost about 40% of our wholesale sales YTD. But, restaurants are gradually reopening and sales are picking up. I watched 500 cases of Bridge Lane cans get loaded onto a truck and leave our warehouse last week, headed to one of our distributors. I paused and appreciated the significance of the moment.
Tasting room sales have taken a hit too, but the loss was mitigated by the ability to sell wine to-go (which we did). And we more than made up for it with the growth in our e-comm sales (which have been wild). You guys have been drinking A LOT of wine. Zero judgements from us, by the way. We’re freakin’ grateful.
Overall sales are flat vs. last year. Considering the challenges we’ve faced (and will continue to face), I consider flat a win.
And what have we learned? So, so much. Namely:
1) We can’t control everything. Just when we think we have it (mostly) figured out and that we’re on a certain path, outside forces can completely F it all up. We have to be prepared to say, “Ok, didn’t see THIS one coming. Now what are we gonna do about it, guys?” Resilience. Adaptability. Lots of coffee.
2) E-comm needs to be more valued and supported. It’s a channel that we’ve always done a decent job of focusing on. Moving forward, it needs to be viewed as just as important as our traditional retail channels. E-comm stepped up. Let’s keep it there.
3) As a team, we don’t need to be physically together all the time to be successful. Admittedly, I struggle with this one. I have micro-managing tendencies. I have a hard time feeling like a team member is fully contributing unless I can physically SEE it. But the reality of the past few months is that most of us have been more productive than ever before, and a lot of that work was accomplished at home. Now, I’m not saying a predominantly WFH model is sustainable or will be advantageous for our business long-term. But, a WFH day here and there – yes. A mental health day here and there – definitely yes. We have to take care of ourselves. Our business won’t suffer from it, it will benefit.
In closing, as CORNY AS IT IS, I’d like to say thank you not only to our customers for their incredible support these last few months, but also to #TeamLieb. Each one of you has surprised and inspired me. From Christie gluing box wine in flats to Derek working night-shift at the winery to Anthony SCHOOLING all of us with his virtual tasting. You guys rock.
I’m praying the second half of this year is less eventful but equally inspiring.
Deep breaths and Sparkling Rosé.
General Manager & Certified Sommelier