I was curious about the local stores because, as it turned out, they also sell Sake. This was one of the things I wanted to research while on my trip – if standard alcohol and spirit stores also sell Sake. So with this goal in mind, I made a stop at Grace Wine & Spirits in New York, USA.
This is the entrance shot, and the Logo mark of wine bottle had my attention immediately upon walking by. The store is surrounded by condominiums and apartments. The place was also very central as far as New York goes. I assume that because of this, they get a lot of customers to their store during all hours of the day.
The sales person, I completely forgot to ask his name sadly, helped me a lot for finding sake products from their shelves. As you can see the bottles behind me are Sake and Shochu-bottles. I was impressed by their selections; they have both 300ml small bottles of Sake up to 720ml sizes. I also found premium grade Sake such as Junmai shu as well as a few Nigori Sakes.
He let me take photos after I told him that I came all the way from Japan! The people in the USA are friendly and easy to talk to all the time, and that’s something I really like, and also something I really miss…
The first thing I noticed was that the labels on the bottles were more or less the same as in Japan, with some added English name and descriptions on the back labels. The price range was kept prett reasonable, starting at 10$ and ranging to 30$ per bottle of Sake.
I also found some Sake that I’ve never seen in Japan – I bought a few bottles of that. It’s always fun and important to try out new experiences after all.
I talked to the sales clerk for almost half an hour, but he was happy to share with me everything he knew. It’s truly the best way to find things out – talking to the locals.
I asked him the following:
Because Sake is almost as expensive as quality Wine, and in many cases a lot more expensive, who would be willing to pay the higher price – what sort of customer would we be looking at?
He kindly answered that question.
Most people in here, they want to know what they are getting, so they ask us questions about products, and we help them finding the right sake for them. If it’s well worth spending it, customers are willing to buy. That’s why we keep studying about our items and get informed as much as we can. Right now, some customers are enjoying Japanese whisky as well. We are seeking for more varieties of Japanese whisky that can be imported into the US as well.
Do you think customers decide to try sake by looking at bottle/label design? Or is their interest in the price?
Some people decide to purchase sake by the label design, but most people care about quality. If one specific sake is well designed, but the quality of taste isn’t that good, the customers never buy it again. As a matter of fact, our customers are looking for tasty sake rather than fancy ones. We at the store taste our selections and think about recommendation for our customers usually – products we can recommend they buy & try.
I remember one time a consultant told me that putting one sake on foreign countries’ liquor store shelf is not easy as there are many competitors like domestic and foreign wine as well as other products. Also, unlike wines, sake still needs attentions from locals, which needs to be the first step in an effective marketing of Sake outside of Japan. I think that this is very true. But here in NY, I think Sake is getting more and more popular and we’ll see a lot of popular Sake very soon.
Anyway, at Grace Wine & Spirits, I enjoyed shopping and talking to the store people. I really hope there will be more stores carrying Sake at not only in large cities but also In the countryside. I noticed that Sake is slowly but surely getting attention by locals in America. It was a good experience to stop by the local store and I gained some very valuable information by doing so.
Grace Wine & Spirits
610 10th Avenue (corner 44th Street)
New York, NY 10036