Sandeep Ghaey loves suggesting a good wine for a dinner party.
But, he says, dealing with COVID-related shopping and indoor dining restrictions, less downtown foot traffic, and uncertainty over the future have taken a lot of fun out of the business at Vinic Wine.
“There’s been a real loss of community that has happened without the wine bar and the wine tastings,” he says, “making the job less enjoyable.”
So, after 13 years in business on Chicago Avenue, downtown, Vinic is closing. Once the inventory is sold (with reduced prices), expected to be done by the end of March, the store will shut its doors.
Limiting the number of customers inside to maintain social distance while still trying to have enjoyable wine tastings was a challenge, Ghaey says.
Even when distancing was no longer mandated, he still kept wine tasting parties apart in the store, to increase safety for them and for his staff.
But “I want to figure out the best chablis for our customers,” he notes, and not have health and safety be such a big part of the operation.
Add in product delays and price increases due to supply chain delays, and more competition among specialy wine stores, and Ghaey is saying “let’s stop carrying a boulder, put it down, and see what’s what.”
Ghaey says Vinic was the first independent wine shop in Evanston, but now there are three others, plus more in Wilmette.
Most independent stores, he says, carry about 200-300 bottles. “We were close to 2,000.”
Deciding to close was a tough and “multi-faceted decision,” he notes, which was also impacted by the timing of his lease expiration.
With all the uncertainty over COVID, costs, and supply chain woes, “it was hard to commit to going forward,” Ghaey explains.
Plus, with a new baby, it just seemed the right time to step back from running a retail store, Ghaey notes, although “it’s the first time I’ve ever left a job without something lined up.”
Ghaey says there’s a pretty good chance he’ll stay in the wine business, although not immediately, and he’s not exactly sure in what way.
Closing Vinic, he says, is bittersweet.
“It’s been a huge pleasure to run the store and get to know the neighbors.”