April 2017


Vintage Wine Merchants - San Jose, CA

Owner: Harry Fong
Vintage Wine Merchants - San Jose, CA
Years in Business: 13 years
Number of employees: 26
“No pretension. No condescension. Just a group of people who understand that, in the end, drinking wine is about celebration – celebrating the moments of our lives as we live them.”

Vintage Wine Merchants:

Vintage Wine Merchants and Wine Bar is a retail fine wine merchant in the San Francisco Bay Area. A friendly, inviting place where both wine aficionados and novices feel at home, Vintage Wine Merchants sells an eclectic selection of fine wines at competitive prices that can either be enjoyed on the premise, taken home or shipped.

How Vintage Wine Merchants began:

Most people end up in the wine business by accident unless they were born into a wine family. Harry was invited to start the business as the finance partner with three other co-founders. Now Harry is the last remaining original staff member since the business opened in 2003.

Business challenges:

  • Competing against big business such as Costco, Total Wine/Bevmo, and internet low-ballers that offer low prices and minimal service.
  • Rents and wages are very expensive in the Bay Area and expected to increase over the next few years.

Competitive advantages:

  • A unique selection of collectible fine wines from around the world.
  • Stable staff and low turnover. Employees enjoy working with Harry and the majority has been there for more than five years.
  • Excellent and personal customer service and knowing their customers. Knowledgeable and helpful staff provides great recommendations of wines.
  • Employees and customers enjoy the community and family environment and feeling. Vintage Wine Merchants grows with customers and celebrates significant events in their lives.

Business rewards:

Harry enjoys being a meaningful part of the lives of his staff and regular clients. He revels in being able to share engagements, promotions, birthdays, weddings, divorce, child births, and other life events with many of his clients and staff. It’s an ongoing celebration of the normal process of life shared with a great bottle of wine.

Generating business and marketing:

  • Multiple channels: retail store, corporate accounts, wine bar, and online store
  • E-Newsletters
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter), word of mouth, and a blog
  • Weekly wine tasting events, about four to five events a month, rotating days so everyone can join in
  • Handpicked wines each month for customers who subscribe to the wine club
  • Gift cards are available on location and online


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