Wine on Valentine’s

Wine sales during Valentine’s Day on the Upper West Side have declined, with the holiday not being able to compete with traditional family holidays, such as Christmas, and neither storeowners nor customers expecting a boost in sales.

While wine is traditionally a big seller around Christmas and Thanksgiving, it has suffered on Valentine’s Day. Large amounts are bought on holidays involving many friends and family, but when someone wants to have an intimate dinner, purchasing one or two bottles is the norm.

“Most purchases [on Valentine’s Day] are rushed and last minute,” said Nancy Maniscalco, owner of Nancy’s Wines located on the Upper West Side. “At the most they will buy one or two bottles of red and, maybe, some pink wine.”

While many customers admitted to enjoying the occasional glass of wine, few were actually purchasing anything for Valentine’s Day itself. A young man, who lives in the West Village, standing outside Nancy’s, stated, “Sure I like wine, but I’m not going to get anything for Monday [Valentine’s]. I’d rather just take her out for a movie than have to do the romantic dinner thing.”

Though Valentine’s Day is not the best day for sales, wine has traditionally done well during the holidays. According to the wine magazine Decanter, despite the looming recession in 2007, the US wine market swelled to an estimated $30 billion. The wine markets value rose by 8 percent, leaving the nation on the verge of overtaking France and Italy in terms of volume. In 2010 the Wine Business Monthly reported seeing a 6 percent bump in wine sales during the holiday season.

H. Tres Meyer, proprietor of the wine store Pour, has done his best to push his product on Valentine’s Day. The walls of his store were adorned with decorations. Champagne and pink wine, Pour’s best sellers, were placed on the front rack with special Valentine’s deals- ‘Bubbles [champagne] & Jacques Torres [chocolate]’ in gift baskets.

Calling it a busy day for his store, Mr. Meyer said that the customers on Valentine’s were mostly his regulars. His rationale was people don’t want to take a risk on a new store when they are shopping at the last minute, as many people do on Valentine’s Day.

Sales clerk Peter Button, who is from the Central Bronx and works at Pour, said, “What you find now is that the same number of bottles are going out the door, but at a lower price per bottle.” Hearing this Mr. Meyer immediately stepped forward, refused to discuss sales further and asserted that he ran a “very profitable business.”

Though most customers agreed that wine, being a luxury good, is hard to buy on a regular basis, many still partake just because it’s a day of celebration. Sidharth, visiting from London, did not plan to celebrate with wine on Valentine’s, saying his girlfriend would rather he “buy her something [more] expensive” than a glass of red wine. He purchased two bottles of red wine for himself as he spoke.

“I enjoy a glass of red wine as and when I can afford it!” exclaimed Jeremy, 23, a student from New York with a sardonic smile on his face. “I’ll buy a bottle for Valentine’s Day whether I have a date or not. People treat themselves for holidays.”

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Restaurant Migration

For the last 30 years the roughly 2 dozen Indian restaurants situatied on East 6th Street in the heart of the East vilage have been vying for control of cusomters’ business. After the success of previous Indian restaurants in the area, current owners claimed to have followed example and set up shop in hopes of emulating them.

The Taj Restaurant, opened in 1985, is one of eight Indian restaurants on the street. The owner is Nurun Khan, originally from Bangladesh, whomoved to the country in the 1990s. She said when she first arrived that 6th street was “known as THE Indian food street”.

When asked if having so many competitors nearby was bad for business Mrs. Khan smiled, sipped her mango lassi and said, “There are millions of people coming in and out of New York everyday, I don’t think this street is enough!”

Abdul Ihashim, who works at the Taj Mahal Restaurant, does not echo Mrs. Khan’s sentiments. Ruefully glancing over the empty restaurant he said this street once cantered to visitors from “all over the Tri-State area”. Now with the Indian cuisine becoming popular in New York, and more and more restaurants opening every year business was not as good.

Many customers claimed to have not thought about going to any one particular restaurant, but just walked into whichever they fancied. Varun Dubey, a student on break from Ohio, said, “I walked in [Taj Mahal] because I liked the sign. I didn’t think about whether I wanted to go to this one, or that one [next door].”

Each restaurant owner seemed to know of two previously existing Indian restaurants- Shah Bagh and Anar Bagh. These restaurants were the first to be opened on 6th street, and paved the way for existing establishments. Mitali East, opened in 1973, is the oldest existing restaurant still on the street. Abdul Moyeed, who works the tables at Mitali, claims after the success of the first two restaurants, “more and more of us [Bangladeshis]” followed their example.

According to a report on the city website, from 1980-1990 there was a 4.4 percent increase in population in the area. It was within time frame when most of the existing restaurants on 6th street opened, with an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants looking for work.

This pattern of following fellow countrymen to set up shop, and form a community of sorts, has manifested itself all over New York. Chinatown and Little Italy are but larger models of 6th street. The doorman at the Taj Mahal said most of the owners were from the same area in Bangladesh, and never directly competed with or confronted each other.

“They do not fight each other”, he said, with a gap-toothed smile. “We are from the same place. We are friends. ”