Pick Your Bottles
by Jennifer Mogensen
Eric Genau, lawyer and wine enthusiast, talks about his boutique wine shop in downtown Buffalo
An Amherst native, the middle child in a family of five and the son of a dentist, Eric Genau seems one of the least likely people to jump into the business of wine.
After graduating from St. Joes, Genau headed to New York City and attended Fordham University, where he double majored in English and political science. Genau earned his law degree from Northeastern in Boston, returned to Buffalo, and became the first lawyer in his family.
Genau seems to thoroughly enjoy the practice of law. His eight years of practice have afforded him a unique perspective when it comes to law: He considers himself an entrepreneur and enjoys helping other entrepreneurs get a head start. “I have a very specialized practice focusing on small business and offering pro bono work,” he says.
Owning his own practice offers him the luxury of time to drink wine.
“I have been around wine my whole life. I come from a family of wine enthusiasts,” he says. While not formally educated in the area of wine, Genau attributes his palette to his abundant experience sampling wines. He has traveled extensively and has used those trips to sample wines from regions around the world.
So what drew an experienced and successful lawyer into retail? Genau says he has received a lot of advice over the years and one the pieces he recalls the best is that he should do something he loves. He loves wine.
City Wine Merchant opened just over three months ago and has already attracted quite a bit of attention. Genau cleverly repurposed an old bank into a wonderfully unique wine shop. Tall ceilings with exposed rafters, glass walls, and open spaces lend a completely different feel to his shop.
“I am a huge fan of Buffalo,” he says. “I love the city and I think there is a great deal of potential and opportunity downtown.”
His location at 715 Main Street, one block north of the Theater District, is in a block that recently has been reopened to two-way traffic and has seen much redevelopment in the last two years.
Genau feels confident that his business will thrive. “I see very measurable improvements happening,” he says. He sites the growth of the Buffalo Niagara medical corridor. His customers include young professionals and retirees residing in newly developed downtown lofts.Genau believes that soon many more people will be working and living downtown. He’s counting on it.
His approach to wine is as unique as his shop. In his travels he has come across several boutique wine shops and thinks that Buffalo is ready for its own niche retailer. “We are very selective and aware of all the wines we bring in here,” he says. Genau tastes every wine that he sells in his shop. (It’s a hard job, he admits, but someone has to do it.) His business model differs from that of most wine stores, too. “We look at it through a different lenses. This is not just a retail business. I view it as a relationship business.”
He strives to develop personal relationships with his customers. If he knows what type of wine interests a particular customer, he will personally contact that customer about new and upcoming selections.
When asked about his philosophy on wine, he expresses that a passion for trying new and different wines. “You can’t generalize wine, they evolve,” he says.
Genau provides opportunities to try new wines to his customers. City Wine Merchant is more than just a place to pick up a bottle. While the shop offers a wide range of hand-selected wines from around the world, it also offers wine tastings on a regular basis. The shop’s wide-open design allows for beautifully crafted, elongated tasting tables with plenty of seats. The shop offers frequent and free wine tasting to the public. And, as the holidays approach they will be focusing on conducting tastings that show their customers wines that pair best with their holiday feast. Genau believes that wine was meant to accompany food. “We really want to help people find the perfect wine for their holiday dinners,” he says.
City Wine Merchant and its neighbor, Chow Chocolat, are offering a unique opportunity to sample a wine and chocolate paring this Saturday, November 21, at 3:30pm. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so reserve a spot by calling 931-9114 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A schedule for upcoming tastings can be found at www.citywinemerchant.com. The shop also offers a large selection of wine accessories and gift cards for the wine connoisseur on your holiday list.
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