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Matt Thomas’s Vinoramica business started out in 2017 with a shop in Waltham Forest, north London. Since relocating across the road, he’s planning a future with more events, more direct importing and even more retail.

“I’d always set out to open a shop and although that was the focus for me and our first site was very small, I used to open it as a bar in the evenings,” he says. 

“I was fairly certain that at some point I’d have to move to a larger premises and I’d had my eye on the site over the road for a while. When it came on the rental market and I saw the agent showing someone round, a shudder went down my spine and I thought: I can’t have someone else moving in there, that’s our place.”

Acting on his gut and without much further thought, Thomas signed on the dotted line and admits he “probably spent the next year regretting it”. It was July 2020 so, not being allowed to open for on-trade sales, he felt the pressure was off. He spruced up the extensive garden and created a welcoming space for returning customers. 

“For about a year and a half we had two sites and it was fine,” he explains. “But financially it didn’t really stack up. It was stressful because it was quite hard to staff and I spent a lot of time just walking from one side of the road to the other.”

Consolidating the business by giving up the first shop at the beginning of 2023, Thomas says any regrets he had concerning the new site are far behind him. 

“It’s in a great location, it’s got huge windows and a lot of visibility as it’s right on a corner. It was built as a pub in the early 1900s, so it has a cellar, which hadn’t been used since World War II. It’s also got a fair amount of outdoor space – room for 40 covers in the garden and another 40 on the terrace. 

“There’s a nice division between the front and the back of the shop. The rear area of the bar is very much like a tasting and events room that people can book out for parties, and the front looks a lot more like a shop. It was in my mind from the beginning that the front would be unmistakably retail.”

With manager Craig Buckmaster running the bar side of things (“he’s indispensable, he’s so much better at all that than I am,”) Thomas says this year he intends to increase the events.

“I try to say yes to most of the community things. There’s a monthly arts and creative club and we open up to them, and there’s also an art trail. We’ve had artists come in and do workshops and we have at least a couple of works from local artists on the walls. 

“There are usually two or three park events a year and we will have a stall there. I feel we are a bit of a community hub. We have local food businesses come in and do food pop-ups, and visiting chefs for supper clubs. We can comfortably fit 30 people seated inside.”

“There’s a lot more potential for the shop,” he adds. “In terms of space, other than moving a couple of fridges around and adding some more shelves, there’s not a lot I can do to increase the retail area, but I can improve it and lay it out a bit better.

“We’re working on a new website and hope that will bring more retail customers in and increase demand for local deliveries. There are so many little residential areas that we barely deliver to at all.”

Thomas says the other thing he’ll be thinking about in the coming months is making more of the VinoTap branding he’s introduced. 

“We’ll see, but I think Vinoramica will remain the business and website name, for e-commerce and delivery. VinoTap is the very much our physical space; the bar and if people are coming to the shop for face-to-face sales.”

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