Mar 18 , 2019

Tom Kisthart

Our Story

From our email newsletter on March 17th, 2019. Be sure to subscribe here


I started writing a sales email this morning and got extremely bored so I stopped. I don't know how you define luxury but my definition is not doing stuff that I don't want to do. Luxury = freedom.

I still wanted to write an email today so here I am. Allow me to tell you a little bit about how this shop came to be.

In 2014 I moved back to New York after being in Tampa for nearly a decade. It was miserable. Everyday I took multiple trains from Long Island to a heinous place called the upper east side just so I can fight with its inhabitants at a used to be great wine shop. I started plotting my way back to the greatest city in the world. I met a woman online, sold her a dream and she bought it. Then I met a potential employer online flew down to seal the job and the girl. In less than 2 weeks I was back to where I wanted to be AND had a great new relationship. Worked at the crummy sales job and took plenty of trips to see my now business partner to discuss launching this venture. Less than a year later we opened our doors.

City officials were helpful in telling us that it would take many (rent paying) months to secure the type of license we were pursuing. We figured out that if food was a significant part of our business then we could get a license faster. OK we're a cheese shop. Craft & Curd was born.

Before we opened the doors I had a lot of confidence that it would be easy to get people through the doors. I quickly learned that the only way to get people in was to give them samples of wine and cheese through this god awful thing called a wine tasting. It was a miserable life. We charged $10 per person, featured a great lineup of wines and put out amazing cheese and meat spreads. Literally like everytime people would say things like "wow, this cheese is so good! Where can I buy this?!" We'd be like right here. They'd be like "no way, I can buy this cheese here?" Yup, there's the cheese cooler and here is the register. "OK great, I'll be back". Yes, they never came back. Some people would buy a decent amount of wine. Others would buy like 1 bottle. 95% of the people would not step foot back into the store without giving them cheese and wine to put into their face. F this. I'm done.

Not a good business model as you might imagine. It was hell. Jessica, now my wife, was there with me in the trenches through all of this. She knew how difficult this was for me. She saw the effect it was having on my well being. Anything more than 2 people is a crowd for me and I'm counting myself in that equation.

I remember telling my father what type of numbers we were doing and he was secretly thinking oh man, they're screwed. And he's my biggest believer.

Right from the jump I knew I needed to get our inventory online. I played with different sites until I stumbled on the right platform. Shopify. I kept on working at it and adding new inventory as I was able to purchase it with the revenue that the tastings were bringing in. Started to get some hits. Oh god, it's working.

I can trace our future success back to two moments. Some wines that we had listed online started selling really well. I said to myself any wine that meets the same conditions as those wines I'm going to buy. I don't know how I'm going to pay for them. I don't care. I just kept buying. My business partner thought I was crazy. It worked. Sales kept growing.

The second moment came when I was having technical trouble getting our wines listed on a particular ad platform. The problem lasted months. One day I said I don't care how long it takes but I'm going to make this happen. We went live and then sales really took off.

Got that cheese cooler the hell out of there. Done.

We also opened with a keg machine that people would come in with empty bottles of beer (I can't even say the word anymore) and we'd fill them shits up with beer from the kegs. This was an even worse business model than selling cheese. You'd have these kegs where it was like the hottest, hardest beer to find and people would get excited and buy it for like 5 days and then you'd be stuck with the rest of the keg for like 5 months. Getting beer people to shop at your store was impossible no matter what we tried. They wear t-shirts that say things like "corporate beer sucks" and then purchase all of their beer (that's not brewery direct) from a big evil corporation Total Wine. Sorry I just hate the craft beer industry now. In 2 weeks we're 100% off that ship as well by the way.

So I cut everything that wasn't working and put all my efforts into what was. That strategy works. We're competing nationally with stores that have been around for decades instead of worrying about what these local knuckleheads are doing (love you guys). We just opened a professional warehouse with racks that go all the way up to our twenty foot ceiling. I just recruited my estranged brother from Scranton to work full time there. It's so freaky, we didn't know each other until several years ago but we're pretty much the same person except for a few major differences.

That's my story of how we came to be. It's been the most empowering chapter of my life. I wouldn't have the luxury to do what I want to do if it wasn't for a friend that was willing to put up the finances to allow me to succeed and the support of my hardworking wife.

Thank you for any support that you've given us over the years allowing this business to grow. Unless you're one of the people who only came to our tastings and haven't been back since. Beat it (edited).