Talking Wine with Certified Sommelier Ed Brehm

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“We call this a pinky-up-free zone. It’s not frou frou. You know, we like nice things, we love great products, but we still want to have value; be approachable to just about anybody. Whether you’re a millionaire or you’re a local server at a local restaurant, everybody’s welcome. We treat everyone with the same respect, and they all get the same service.”

— Ed Brehm

 

Ed is the reason I’ve developed a passion for wine. When you walk into Boyne Country Provisions and The Wine Emporium & Market in Boyne City, Michigan, you can tell right away it isn’t a mere party store. From the welcoming staff, to the ambient music, to the wine tastings on Saturday evenings, everything about this place radiates success. When you catch yourself in an inner monologue of, Dude, can I work here?, you know they’re doing something right.

Ed and his wife, Kristine, used to work for an automotive supplier in Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Ed as a robotics paint engineer and Kristine as a chemical engineer. Eventually, a consulting position came up in northern Michigan for the largest automotive supplier in the world. Ed and Kristine agreed to the move, but committed to starting their own business after five years.

Fast forward three and half years to 2008. Ed is promoted one week, only to be let go with 100+ other employees the following Monday. The good news is he and Kristine had already purchased the local provisions store. The bad news is now they had a dilemma. Do they sell the provisions store and leave or do they make lemonade?

It’s good thing they chose the latter. Boyne Country Provisions quickly progressed, and they decided to open another side of the business; a wine shop.

In order to feel comfortable with selling people wine, Ed and Kristine felt it was important to be as knowledgeable about the beverage as possible. Oddly enough, Master Sommelier Ron Edwards (1 of 229 people worldwide to achieve the title, 147 of which are in North America) lived close enough to Boyne City to mentor Ed through obtaining the level of Certified Sommelier.

They are now celebrating their seventh year in business. For The Wine Emporium & Market, Ed and Kristine focus on finding wine produced by small, family-owned vineyards, while avoiding what Ed refers to as McWines (large wine producers that tend to sacrifice quality for quantity). However, quality doesn’t have to mean spending $100 for a bottle of red. Ed takes pleasure in finding great quality wines at a great price, and it shows. When you stop by for one of their wine tastings, which are held every Saturday from 4pm to 7pm, you don’t only sip wine. You receive an education. There are typically three wines for each tasting, and Ed goes into the history of the grape varietals, the vintners’ wine-making process, and with what foods the wines pair well. One of the wines from each tasting is featured as the WOW (Wine of the Week), and is offered at a discount for that week.

Regarding the business, Ed credits a combination of things to its success. One of them is the importance of good old-fashioned customer service; everyone is greeted with a warm welcome and everyone gets the same service, no matter who they are. Another is a list of what Ed and Kristine refer to as The Non-Negotiables, which is an agreement each team member must sign in order to be employed. The Non-Negotiables must be worth it, though, because the team members look like they genuinely enjoy their work.

There’s much more in the full interview, so make sure to listen, like, and share! Also, remember to check out the hidden gems from the interview below:

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Listen to this episode on iTunes!

Hidden Gems

Here are some of the hidden gems from the interview with Ed:

Helpful Organizations

The Court of Master Sommeliers

Interested in studying to become a certified sommelier? The Court of Master Sommeliers website has all the information you need to get started!

Helpful Services, Books, and Movies

WhizBang! Training

WhizBang! provides training courses and seminars to help retail store owners keep their ideas fresh and updated.

Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly

Windows on the World is a GREAT introductory book for people who are beginning to dive into the world of wine. It’s also easy to read. One could say it isn’t…dry. 😀 (Wow, good one, Mike. Cue the punchline music.)

Somm (Documentary)

This documentary is amazing and hilarious. It follow four guys who are studying to become Master Sommeliers. Definitely worth checking out.

Hootsuite

Send out posts to all of your social media outlets from one control panel. This can be real time saver.

The Almighty Newsletter

No link for this one. I just think it’s important to stress the power of a newsletter to help you maintain direct contact and engage with customers, potential customers, fans, or enthusiasts in any realm you decide to pursue. It’s one thing to “Like” a Facebook page, but unless you pay to boost your posts, odds are only a fraction of the people who already like you are seeing them. Subscribers to a newsletter directly receive the information you want to share, and you don’t need to pay extra money in the process.

E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

We didn’t discuss the E-Myth during the interview, but I was reminded of it when Ed mentioned their list of Non-Negotiables for team members. This may seem like a strict practice at first glance, but it can actually lead to a happier and healthier working environment. The E-Myth explains why and how to effectively use these strategies. Check it out.

Where You Can Reach Ed Online

BoyneCountryProvisions.com

Boyne Country Provisions on Facebook

The Wine Emporium & Market on Facebook

 

Until next time!

Mike

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