We had the good fortune of connecting with Gary Parker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gary, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Diversity. The WineSellar & Brasserie has multiple revenue resources, as well as other challenging National/World events that are outside of our control. 1. We are a professional wine storage facility, renting wine lockers to 175 private wine collectors. Revenues cover rent for the entire facility each month. 2. We conduct interesting small and large scale wine tastings and wine dinners a few times a month. 3. We added a wine/cocktail bar targeting the local work force, which is more casual than the Brasserie Restaurant. 4. We have a wine shop that specializes in hard to find gems at reasonable prices. We can obtain many wines that are not commonly seen on other wine stores because the producers prefer to be associated with fine dining restaurants versus a wine shop or liquor store. 5. We have three wine of the month wine clubs with hundreds of subscribers. We include tasting notes, food combinations, and special discounts for the wine club members. 6. I broker and appraise wine for our locker renters, as well as outside wine collectors. Often times, I can get off the market collectable rare wines that I can offer to my customers through the wine shop or the restaurant wine list. Historically, we have experienced that when restaurant sales are soft (as in COVID-19 right now) that our wine shop sales increase.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I was studying art/architecture in college and I got a job in a French restaurant to help get by. I fell in love with the culinary arts at this place, and decided I was going to someday own my own restaurant, and book myself playing jazz saxophone, another passion of mine. I did get my own restaurant(s), but wisely, booked other musicians to play for our guests. At one point, I was selling wine to the general public via in home wine tastings, 100% commission basis. People kept telling me they would buy more wine if they had a place to store it. At the time, (1983) there were no professional wine storage facilities in San Diego, and only two in neighboring Los Angeles. I ran some numbers on revenues and expenses for a business to store wine, and decided that wine storage alone was not enough. So with my restaurant background, I decided to make a hybrid, the first in the nation, to combine a fine dining restaurant, a wine shop, and wine storage facility under one roof. I learned how to make a business plan, how to attract investors, and set up the business structure to bonfire all those involved. I raised the initial moneys from a small group of people, and later was able to fund the start upper the location we now have, I had access to a great chef, a long list of special wines for the wine shop and the restaurant wine list. And in fact, we opened with 2,500 wines on the restaurant list, and garnered the Wine Spectator Grand Award in our first year one of only 79 across the globe at that time to achieve that award. I love(d) the whole concept, and even though I spent 60-90 hours there a week, I didn’t mind it at all. We were greeted with rewarding accolades and encouragement, and even though serving the general public has its challenges, I was lost in my drive to bring the best possible food and wine to the table of our customers. In retrospect, I found myself letting criticism weigh a lot more than I did praise. You know. 99 people are happy, but the one who complains has as much significance as all the rest. After all this time, I have let that go, to some extent, as I am confident that the product and services we offer to our patrons on a daily basis is consistently of high caliber.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would obviously take them to The WineSellar & Brasserie at least four times, to enjoy lunch, dinner, live jazz music, and a wine tasting. A walk along the beach from Scripps Pier to Torrey Pines Beach (at low tide) is always gorgeous. Get cocktails at Bertrands Mr. A’s and watch the planes come and go. A day cruising Balboa Park. Visit Ramona Wineries for tastings. Walk the Ocean Beach Pier, and Oceanside Pier. If my guests were golfers, getting a tee time at Torrey Pines is a must.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My wife Lori has been with me since we started this business, and her contributions have helped immensely in getting to where we are today. She is the detail person, and sees things I would overlook. It is our life and love, and she is tops on the list of people who have made us. I also have a four great friends who are each VERY successful, and have given me advise and guidance early on, as well as through the years. We have had a lot of excellent people who have worked for us over the 32 years we have been open, but none would exceed the group I have right now. Our Maitre’d has been with us twenty-three years, Chefs for twelve years, and the rest of the staff an average of five years. For a restaurant and a wine shop, that is some serious tenure. They are in it to atone, not for the money, but for their deep passion of there culinary arts: wine, food.