Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Starting Up in a Downturn

Andrea Fassone decided to start an Italian wine import business in the last quarter of 2008. Timing is everything. But unlike General Motors, he didn’t take 3 years and numerous trips to Italy to get rolling. He knew what he was looking for before he even got to America. The timing aspect has been a bit of a surprise, but in this short, end-of-year interview, I think you can feel Andrea’s sense of entrepreneurship and willingness to go boldly through the fog. Anyway, here he is in less than three months, up-and-running with his new baby, Enotria Imports. I caught up with him by phone as he was delivering wine through the holiday season. He sounded like he could use a little help, sales are brisk.

Read this interview; support this start-up (for now, selling in NY-Metro market) and remember : You heard it here, first.

Andrea came to NYC Aug'01-photo taken Oct '01 in front of the WTC site

Q. When and how did you get into the wine business?
A. I started in August 2001 here in the USA; before it was just a passion I inherited from my father. Then I had the opportunity to move here and work in the wine selling business thank to Sam Levitas and Eugenio Spinozzi, back then, partner-owners of Tricana imports.

Andrea with Eugenio Spinozzi and Fosco Amoroso

Q. When did you decide to start your own company?
A. I started to think about it in June and I decided in September. I wanted to be partner in Tricana but it wasn't possible, so I started to talk to a friend in Italy who called me several times with the will to start a new business with me.

Q. How did you manage to start your own company and get the wines in so soon?
A. The person I was in touch with has been in the business since ever and already had his contacts. We added some of mine and we started to get serious. I don't have to tell you if you want to achieve something you have to go and grab it.... Of course my partner’s experience (and my little experience) played a big role.

Q. Any particular surprises about starting a business in these economic times?
A. Not surprises, but often the same: Are you sure you want to start a business in this bad economy?
Anyway, people are still drinking wine, maybe less expensive, but still buying wine. So I focused on good wines at good prices to put together my portfolio.

Q. Do you have any wine regions or wines that you are particularly fond of or are focusing on?
A. Being from Piemonte and growing up with wines from that area I'm more for lean dry wines than big fruity wines. If you look at my portfolio you will see 3 Nebbiolo producers, from Roero, from Valtellina and Barolo area. (would you say I'm fond of Nebbiolo...?) .But the idea is to have wines from all over Italy able to represent the grape and the land where they are from.

Q. In your recent travels in Italy and America, what are some areas that really seem to have a lot of energy and excitement for you?
A. In Italy I really fell in love with wineries/vineyards in some extreme places. After a trip in Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Valtellina and Alto Adige, I understood how wine has been part of the local culture, a need, a tradition, or it would not make sense to plant grapevines in such difficult-to-work areas. That is one reality I would like to show to the American people (I know I'm not the first...). On the other hand I see here in the States a growing attention to those realities. Italy is not only Chianti and Pinot Grigio and people are starting to appreciate the "culture" I mentioned above. This is a phenomenon that in NYC has been going on for years and spread through the country.

Energy in the USA? I like what I see in Austin and in Atlanta toward Italian wines.

Q. How do you feel about the oncoming New Year (2009)?
A. I think is going to be the survival of the fittest. Hard workers and passionate people will be fine and everybody else...we'll see.

Andrea Fassone
Enotria Imports

598 Hancock St.
Brooklyn (that would be in Bed-Stuy), NY 11215

Last post for 2008 - Next post Sunday Jan 4, 2009 - Happy New Year! Felice Anno Nuovo!


Anonymous said...

fantastica notizia! buona fortuna!

this is wonderful news - andrea is a great guy and i wish him all the best, we need people like him and to continue to support the "little guy" out there working so hard in the big sea, the little fish are usually the best...

buon anno!

Gianpaolo Paglia said...

Good luck to Andrea and good luck to all of us in the wine business.

Jennifer said...

I second that emotion (from Ceri)! A great story and if anyone can do it, Andrea can. The vespa picture in San Francisco brings back great memories. Thank you, Andrea for getting me started out here.
Best for 2009!

Massimello said...

Very nice article, Alfonso: Andrea, the photos, the things u, boys, say in the interview. I'm sure: it will be a success. In the ass of the whale, as we say in Italy.
Alfonso, I hope to meet u soon in Ala di Stura...or somewhere else in Italy.
Have a TREMENDOUS 2009, My dear friends.

Tracie P. said...

tanti auguri for andrea! happy new year, ace :)

Anonymous said...

Good luck Andrea!! What a loss for Tricana Imports but what a gain for you personally.

Unknown said...

you gonna rock! Good luck...if any wine-buyer is out your door to this guy you won't regret it.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to Andrea and bravo for his courage to open now and continue to be passionate about wine even in this tough economy.

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