The Central District will soon be home to a new wine market, but unfortunately it’s not going to be filling any of the area’s vacant storefronts. CD residents since 2007, Ryan and Ashley Sytsma plan to open The People’s Wine Market online in mid-spring. The website, which is currently under construction, will specialize in helping small, artisan wineries close out their inventory, and they are hoping to feature Washington State wineries in their online store. Ashley is already familiar with the wine industry as owner and operator of Elemental Importers, a company that imports and distributes wines from Argentina, Portugal and France.
The wine industry is traditionally three tiered, with wine going from producers to distributors to retailers. That system works well for medium to large wineries, but very small cellars that produce just a few hundred cases of wine a year often do not have the volume to make a system like that pencil out monetarily. Many small wineries end up only selling wine in their tasting rooms or directly from their websites because they cannot be profitable unless they cut out the middle man – the distributor.
Besides being expensive to produce and distribute, wine is an agricultural product and is, therefore, volatile. Issues with growing seasons, drought, and freezes aside, wines simply mature differently from year to year.
“When it’s ready, it’s ready,” said Ryan. Therefore, a winery may need to release its latest vintage before their last one is sold out. Currently there are websites that focus on closing out wines, “But a lot of these places need a larger inventory than an artisan winery can supply,” said Ryan.
That’s where People’s Wine Market comes in. They will purchase smaller allotments of wines than other “close out” retailers and sell them at slightly discounted prices through their online store. The boutique wineries will have the opportunity to make larger sales to People’s Wine Market than they could through their own websites or through their tasting rooms, giving them the working capital they may need to stay operational or get through harvest or bottling.
For now The People’s Wine Market will be online-only, but when asked about opening a store in the future, Ryan said, “We’d love to stay in the CD.” I’ll drink to that.