Hoxton is now home to Finley’s, a new wine bar and shop. The venture was a long time coming for owner Kasia Smith, who says it’s been “something I’ve wanted to do for the last 15 years, at least”.
But, as she explains, “life happens”, and she worked in graphic design in her native Australia before moving to London 10 years ago.
“Wine has always been a hobby, kind of in the background,” she says. When she found herself furloughed during Covid, she turned to that hobby, embarked on some formal wine education and started to put her plans in place.
“We’ve been up and running for two months now,” says Smith, “so we’re just figuring out the hours, when it’s busy and when it’s not so much. At the moment I’m not opening on Mondays or Tuesdays. I’ve found that most people midweek want to pop in to buy a bottle on the way home rather than drink in. Then on Thursday to Sunday the wine bar is open alongside the retail. There are parks and the canal quite close by, so a lot of customers have been coming in to buy to take away. We have fridges, so everything that needs to be chilled is chilled.”
Smith is working with a number of suppliers including Graft, Indigo and VineTrail and her focus is on wines either made by women or by wineries that have women at the helm of the business. “Part of being aware of what you’re drinking is understanding who made it and what their story is,” Smith says.
“I’ve always been really interested in female entrepreneurs or women doing really awesome things and the stories behind them. There needs to be a light shone on women in general so I thought I’d focus on that, tell their stories, promote their business and their wine and show that it can hold its own.”
Smith built the initial wine list with her friend Eleanora Kausinyte, the head sommelier at Maison François and, working to her criteria, they discovered that the only problem was whittling the list down to just 50 wines for Finley’s wine wall. “It would hold more if I had one of each, but I have three of each wine and the idea is to constantly change it to keep it more interesting,” adds Smith.
Totally self-funded, the project relied on Smith roping in some friends with very particular skill sets: plasterers, electricians and carpenters all pitched in. A time-lapse video on the website shows the team completely transforming the premises.
The result is a “tiny” wine shop and bar that seats 22 and with an overspill onto a 4m square outside space.