In this installment of Meet the Merchant, we speak to Nancy Vesco of Vesco Ridge Vineyards in West Chazy, New York. Nancy and her husband, Dan, have turned a post-retirement hobby into a thriving new business. She shares how they’re surviving the pandemic and how they’ve been able to give back to their community.
Clover: Hi, Nancy! Can you share the story of how you decided to start your business?Nancy Vesco: About fifteen years ago, my sister gave my husband a wine kit for Christmas, and the wine was actually pretty good. So he decided that when he retired, just as a hobby, he wanted to make wine. We bought about 75 vines. Not long after, about 10 years ago now, we got a license and started looking at it as a business. We built the building that houses our tasting room and gift shop, and then we added a deck. We even built ourselves a house on the land and moved in. And the business has kept growing, to the point that I retired about a year and a half ago because the wine business was doing so well.
Clover: So you and Dan are both fully focused on the vineyard now?Vesco: Yeah, Dan makes the wine and I run the business. I grew up working with the public a lot. I was the secretary for the superintendent of our local public school here for 20 years, so I had a lot of customer service knowledge and people skills from working in a school with the parents and teachers and everybody. As a result, I’ve done a lot of the marketing for the vineyard. We’ve also taken classes, and we usually go to a couple of trade shows each year for wineries.
Clover: What makes Vesco Vineyards special?Vesco: Dan is really dedicated to making the wine, and he doesn’t rush it, so the flavor is there. We have about 14 different wines. Each one is very different. Two of them are sweet, and the rest are dry or semi-dry. There’s something for everyone—people will always find something they like.
Dan and I are both social beings, so we do a lot of events. We have yoga and wine on the deck every Thursday night, May through September. Every Wednesday night in August is trivia night. We have live music on Saturdays—just for two hours, because we’re older folks. People can bring their own food, and recently we’ve started bringing in food trucks.
Community service is also very important to us. For the past six years, we’ve been hosting a 5K event in May called Run for Wine. It’s a fundraiser for Hospice of the North Country. We have live music, and we have a little cart of wine out during the run. Two years ago, we raised money for a local boy who needed a new wheelchair. We’ve also raised money for North Country Honor Flight, to honor our local veterans. The run kicks off our season every year, and people love it. We get a food truck, people have a good time, and we do some good for others.
Clover: Tell us how you use Clover.Vesco: When we first started out, we had another system. But after about a year, the whole thing broke down. So I did a lot of research to decide on a new system. By that point we had opened up our deck, and I knew I wanted another point of sale besides the main one inside. I did a price comparison, and Clover was by far the best option.
After about a year, the screen on our main Clover system in our tasting room started going screwy. We had a big weekend coming up, so I called support, and they overnighted me a whole brand new Clover system. Any time I have had to call with a question, the service is amazing.
Now we have the main terminal in the tasting room, and a portable Clover Mini that we can bring out to the deck. I also use some of the reporting features, and I use Easy Labels. It’s great for keeping inventory organized and pricing everything.
Clover: How has the pandemic impacted your business?Vesco: Well, it definitely slowed us down. We are officially open May 1st through the week of Christmas, and we never had to close, but business was very slow until I started selling flavored slushies to go. We weren’t able to open the deck or do events until July. In July, August, and September, we did great with being outdoors, but then it started getting cold.
We’ve had more people this year from nearby—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania—people who had to cancel their vacations and just needed to get away. We are also signed up with the Harvest Hosts program, where people with RVs or campers can stay on our property for one night. We provide nothing, not even utilities, and all they have to do is buy one item from us and they can stay for the night. We’ve had about 75% more people coming through that program this year—they’ve canceled their vacations, they bought or rented an RV, and they’re just traveling locally. We’ve met the most interesting people that way.
Clover: What advice would you give to other small business owners? Vesco: My best advice is to focus on customer service over everything else. I like to make it easy for people. My advice is to keep using more of the features in Clover to email people with updates and specials, and stay in touch with your customers. Also, take advantage of the many Clover videos and articles online. Keeping up with technology is key to growing your business.
Eventually, Dan and I will retire, likely helping the new owners through the transition. At that point, we’ll permanently reserve the two white rocking chairs on the deck, drink wine, and watch the new owners do all the work!
Read more of our Meet the Merchant stories for real-life stories of small businesses in action all over the country.
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