There are many reasons why New Orleans is one of the most popular travel destinations: the food, the history, the music, and of course the drinks. Whether you go on a bar crawl in the French Quarter or share a bottle wine with your friends, one thing is for sure: you’ll never be without a drink. While many tourists prefer a cocktail to go, those who explore the city off the beaten track will discover a hidden gem for fine wine and spirits – Grande Krewe.
Meet the Grande Krewe Family
The four friends, married couples, and business partners, Roy Arriola, Carla Arriola, Bob Heaps and Jane Cooper opened the doors of Grande Krewe in July 2015. Although all four partners have careers in other fields, they share an extraordinary passion for wine. “Opening a boutique seemed to be the next logical step,” says Bob.
Opening a liquor store in New Orleans may seem like a no-brainer, but Grande Krewe stands out with its special selection of wines and spirits that are unique and not easy to get anywhere else in the city. At Grande Krewe you’ll find everything from rare Champagnes and red wines, to Japanese Whiskey, to regionally distilled rums, whiskeys, bourbons, to small batch tequila. Basically, if you like discovering new brands, they make it easy.
“We provide a unique destination for people to buy wine and spirits, but they also like to come to see us and each other. They feel like this is part of their life, not just another item on their shopping list. They come to us so they can be part of the Grande Krewe family,” says Jane.
How to Stand out in the New Orleans Wine and Spirits Business
At Grande Krewe, anybody is welcome, from wine connoisseurs, to those who want to learn more about wine. Jane explains that a lack of knowledge is nothing to be ashamed of because every customer is encouraged to taste different wines to find out what they like.
The four partners pride themselves in creating a personal, inviting and fun ambiance. Besides meeting the exuberantly happy store dogs Deuce “The Wonderdog” and Pearl at the entrance, there is always music, as well as a large piano in the back of the store that invites customers and event guests to share their artist talents.
“It is almost certain that once you come in the store, you will want to come back. Establishing that atmosphere has been a big part of our success,” says Carla.
The team has also worked hard to draw more people in with special events such as Champagne Fest, dinners at Compère Lapin, and guided scotch tastings. The number of people attending the tastings, wine dinners, and Thirsty Thursdays has surged since the initial opening. “I think with those special events we get the reputation that it’s a party-sort of thing and that Grande Krewe is serious about the wine and spirits we sell,” says Jane.
Krewe’s Key to Success: Patience and Persistence
In the beginning of their journey, the four partners had to navigate through the difficulties of the City of New Orleans to get the approvals they needed to start their business. While going through this process, there was a zoning ordinance change in the city. To make things even more difficult, their store had to be completely built out before the state would grant the actual liquor license. “After a year of hard work, we’re just starting to hit our stride,” says Bob.
According to Roy, they couldn’t have done it without patience and persistence. After navigating through the city’s difficult liquor license regulations, Grand Krewe managed to keep the opening date they had set in the beginning. “People were actually surprised at the pace we did everything in,” says Bob.
Lessons Learned as Successful Business Partners
Considering that all of the Grande Krewe partners are 40+ years old and have careers outside of the business, they have found a way to use their diverse backgrounds to their benefit. Carla believes that because of their differences, they’ve learned a lot from each other.
Jane explains that having multiple business experiences can be tough because partners can bring different personalities and approaches to the table. To their benefit, they’ve known each other outside of the business for a while, which made it easier to get through tough times. When worse comes to worse, Bob has the ultimate remedy: “That’s when we open scotch,” he says.
A Bright Future for Grande Krewe
Jane, Bob, Carla, and Roy plan to keep the personal and communal reputation of Grande Krewe. Their hands-on approach to marketing through not only social media and email blasts, but also by going door to door in the neighborhood, has transformed the store into a go-to destination for locals and tourists.
“We also want to be more efficient. None of us have ever been in retail, so this is a lot of trial and error. We fall down sometimes, but we all have the same passion,” Bob says.
The partners agree that their lives would be empty without the store.