On Aug. 28, New York wine-and-spirits retailer Sherry-Lehmann completed a $5.5 million move to a new location on the corner of Park Avenue and 59th Street, a few blocks away from the Madison Avenue storefront the business had occupied for 59 years. Though the store had been on the lookout for a larger space since 2000, the Madison Avenue location was sold in the 2006 real-estate boom, giving the search a greater urgency. Despite the haste, however, the store found itself a prime spot.
The move, which took place over the preceding weekend and involved shuttling the store's 60,000-bottle on-site inventory, went smoothly thanks in part to a dedicated staff, said the store's chairman, Michael Aaron. "We literally worked night and day," he said. Aaron himself oversaw the move, personally setting up the window displays and spending over 10 hours hanging antiques and artifacts from the old store throughout the new, three-story space with his wife, Christine. "I want people to be reminded of the old Sherry-Lehmann wherever they look," he said.
The experience for the customers and sales staff, however, is entirely updated. Standing outside the glass double doors that mark the Park Avenue entrance, Aaron mused, "In our old location, we didn't have that much floor traffic. Now, see all the people." Stepping aside for an entering customer, he exclaimed, "It's 10 o'clock in the morning!"
Chris Adams, executive vice president, offered a partial explanation for the uptick: "Foot traffic along 59th Street going east and west reaches 1.2 million people a day."
The high-profile location may help draw people in, but a brighter and more spacious layout helps to keep them browsing. With the additional 400 square feet of floor space on the retail floor, the store can display 300 more bottles than before. This means that customers are now aware of some of Sherry-Lehmann's more esoteric offerings. "We did $40,000 of rare armagnac the first day," said Aaron. "I had to put in an emergency order."
As with the old location, only select bottles from the inventory are on display, organized by region, but the process of calling up bottles from the temperature- and humidity-controlled cellar has been streamlined. In the old store, sales staff filled out customer orders by hand, dropped them through a slot on the floor for the cellar staff to fill, and then rang a bell. Now, however, salespeople on the retail floor carry PDA terminals that allow them to instantly relay orders to the cellar staff. A pleased store clerk wielding his PDA remarked, "We've entered the 21st century!"
The PDAs are linked to a database that tracks the entirety of Sherry-Lehmann's inventory. At any moment, staff can tell not only how many bottles there are of a given wine on site, but also how many bottles are in stock at the Brooklyn warehouse that houses over 950,000 bottles worth $14 million. This computer system has made the on-site cellar more efficient, said Aaron. "We used to keep $2.5 million of inventory at our old store, but now we have just about a million dollars here." Stock trucks transfer bottles from the warehouse to the Park Avenue cellar four times a day to replenish depleted inventory.
Overall, Aaron and his staff are thrilled with their new digs. "We're as happy with it as our customers are," he said. "And they're very happy."