Monday, 8 February 2010

Words really did fail me yesterday. I was looking forward to getting a Railway Arch back.

Arch 36, Windsor Viaduct was where I lived for many years. There's something about Arches. Very SOLID arches. So yesterday I was really looking forward to seeing our new and much bigger Arch at Vinopolis near London Bridge Station, under the railway that runs into Cannon Street.

It had been open half an hour when I got there and was.... simply stunned! I'd seen the plans but wasn't expecting this! Felt faint! Luckily a glass of Champagne was immediately shoved in my hand. A lot of unsuspecting folk had that happen to them yesterday as the new staff led by veteran Eddie Lewis tried to make immediate friends with all Southwark.

Eddie, 10.30; "Already made two sales"!

A lovely customer from Norfolk immediately pinned me down with a volley of compliments about my wonderful staff. It's always the staff who get the compliments these days. I might as well retire!

But I can't now, not with this awesome emporium to go play in. Right between Borough Market, my food heaven and Vinopolis the great wine exhibition.

Laithwaites at Vinopolis features 'the longest tasting table in the world' - huge - and well over a thousand different wines. (Though we have three thousand in our cellars so that's no great deal, really).

Rob and Rhonda only took over the place four weeks ago, but they, our designer, his craftsmen, and The Team worked round the clock to be ready to open with about 5 mins to spare. Amazing what adrenalin can do!

This was what they call a 'soft launch' with no fanfare or publicity. Just so we can ensure it works properly before the Mayor comes and cuts the ribbon officially on Friday Feb 19th. And then on Saturday 20th we've got tastings and events all day, including a wine lucky dip with 500 bottles of wine, each for £5. The bottles include Lafite, Mouton, Cheval Blanc, Haut-Brion as well as some of our customers big favourites like Black Stump and Papavero. Every single one will be a great bottle!

But words got out already. On day one we sold more than we sold in any other of our ten shops. Promising!

We've lots to tweak and polish. There's a working winery going in there, with the great Jean-Marc himself, pumping over! That'll draw the ladies! And there's to be a bank of projectors and... Oh! I don't know what else.

That massive steel table will see some serious tasting sessions - our wine producer mates are falling over themselves to show their stuff here.

Later that day, heading north to Mother I read something Susan Hill had written in the Spectator about her favourite bookshop. A slight adaptation gave me; "A treasure house, with enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff, and nooks and crannies full of the unexpected, not the usual mass-market, heavily promoted stuff. Test of a good wine shop? You stay ages longer than you planned and come out with wines you'd never heard of but know you absolutely have to have - and you certainly never leave empty-handed."

Except, of course that we'll be able to deliver if you don’t want to carry your wine home. We can deliver to you anywhere next day at the moment but after the big opening, we'll be able to deliver anywhere within the M25 that same day. So, choose your wine and it can be there when you get home!

I'm going to pin that statement up in the office. Something to aim for.

There is going to be no better place on the planet to go buy wine than our new Arch.

Visit laithwaites.co.uk

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