It’s almost six years since First Quench collapsed. Its three-for-two discounts remain unmissed and unmourned; its universally reviled auto-replenishment system, which allowed a computer to over-ride the local knowledge of managers, still causes bemusement and indignation, even as a distant memory.
The inevitable demise of the business created turmoil and misery for all concerned. But just as trees soon start to grow in a storm-ravaged forest – and indeed thrive, due to the lack of competition for light, water and nutrients – so have independent merchants seen a benefit in the post-Thresher clearing.
Many of the hopefuls who took on former Thresher, Bottoms Up and Wine Rack stores ended up making the same core mistake as their former employers had done. There was a lack of imagination in the offer – a mish-mash of low-quality wines, usually overpriced for what they were, in a strip-lit, carpet-tiled environment where cheap lager and PETs of white cider were piled high.
But many took a completely different tack, either because they had worked long enough within First Quench to recognise there was a better way to run a specialist wine shop, or because as outsiders they could spot a promising but underperforming site when they saw one.
In the new issue of The Wine Merchant, we identify 12 independent wine specialists that have thrived in former First Quench branches. In some cases, these businesses have opened second (and third) branches. Much of the recent thrust behind the indie sector can be attributed to such investors … and their efforts have ensured that any retelling of the First Quench saga – a debacle in so many respects – has a positive dimension.