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Unique Wine Bottle Shop and Bar Space Opens in Toronto: Interview

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Praise Bottle Shop has launched a retail space in downtown Toronto to further accelerate its reach with sister business Gargoyle Wine Club, a wine-subscription based service with an altruistic twist.

Will Predhomme

The concept was an idea by Scott Zebarth and Will Predhomme, both Managing Directors for Gargoyle Wine Club and Praise Bottle Shop.

“Gargoyle Wine Club is a subscription-based national wine club involved in wine delivery, mixed packs, sourced by our team of sommeliers across the country. We’ve been around for four years in this capacity,” said Predhomme.

“Praise Bottle Shop is our retail bottle shop we just opened in Toronto and it’s a physical embodiment of this online business.

Image: Praise Bottle Shop

“We are more of a water company than a wine company. Every bottle that is purchased by our customers provides one year of clean drinking water for somewhere in the world. We have this partnership with water.org which is one of the best, oldest, designated water charities to solve the water crisis in the world. That is the main reason why we exist and we utilize wine as the best way to solve this problem.”

Scott Zebarth

The retail store opened on Bloor Street near the corner of Shaw Street.

Zebarth said it was important to have a physical space where people could interact with the brand.

“Really our differentiation point truly is the water mission. So we wanted to have almost a headquarters where people could come in and try to experience that for themselves,” said Zebarth.

“Every single item you get from our Bottle Shop whether it’s just a glass of beer or whether you just walk out with a case of wine or even just some of our pantry items, that’s one more year of water for people.

“We wanted to make it very clear for our members and now our customers what that all means. So many people talk about a percentage of sales. Getting into the dollar math, we just didn’t want to get into that. I think it gets problematic. We also wanted to be transparent. So every single bottle you receive, or every item you receive from the Bottle Shop, is one year of water. And to date our members have given over 170,000 people water for an entire year. That’s both Gargoyle and Praise. We’re really excited and that number is climbing every single day.”

Zebarth said the company wants to be meaningful. This is the first step for the company in launching physical space. While there is nothing in theory in the pipeline for more stores, he said they would love to have more Bottle Shops.

“It’s all going to a great cause. It’s a really interesting way of building community. We were able to do it online and I know it’s kind of a little backwards. So many people start bricks and mortar then move online. For us, we actually did it the opposite way. But for us it’s really just building a community and I think a really great way of doing that is to have multiple parts,” he said.

Gargoyle started in 2016.

“We’ve been doing this for five years now and growing it from essentially nothing to the point where we’re at this retail aspect which we never dreamed of doing but to put in context of retail it’s a tremendous opportunity to get  your message out and having the Club and having the content and wealth of business behind that helps us to be able to build this environment in a physical representation,” said Predhomme.

“So we don’t see retail as being a negative. We see it as a massive physical positive that is supported by our online business. It’s a nice hybrid.”

Zebarth said the key differentiator for the business is its team of sommeliers. He said gargoyles were the traditional protectors on the sides of a building. They wouldn’t let the evil spirits in – only the good had entry to the buildings.

Image: Praise Bottle Shop

“That is really what our company does. It’s all about curation. Every single item has been curated. And the name praise, when you are going to say something great you’re giving it praise. So that is why we landed on that name,” he said.

“Additionally, we’re going to be starting a new wine brand called Praise as well and that’s going to be launching next year.”

Currently, Gargoyle has anywhere between 1,500 and 3,000 recurring customers who have subscribed to a membership. There is no fee to join. But people don’t need to be a member to utilize its services. It has a full size of concierge products, it can source products for people, there’s also gifting items, one off products as well.

“The point is to create an easier access to the customer and help to demystify the choices that you have when you go to a bottle shop. We spent our time in developing our careers in understanding wine. So to give that option to people who shop, take that off their plate, people want to think it, they don’t want to go to school for it. Let us do that work and trust us that it’s going to be done right,” said Predhomme.

Gargoyle focuses on wine and whiskey for its product.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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