Wee Vinoteca is not so wee anymore

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Duncan Gammie at The Wee Vinoteca in Hitchin opened a second shop, in Burwash Manor, west of Cambridge, last month.

“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do,” he explains, “but I guess I’ve always been looking for an opportunity that wasn’t super, super scary.”

Along with his wife, Hannah, Gammie launched the business in 2018.

“I’ve always been aware that the second site can be quite a difficult proposition,” he says. “A lot of people I’ve spoken to in the hospitality world say that going from two to three or three to four is actually easier, in a way, because you kind of know what you’re doing – the pattern is there.”

This particular non-scary opportunity appeared in the shape of an existing wine business in a recently refurbished premises sitting pretty in a rural but busy location.

After two decades of trading, Jason Cozzi at Cozzi & Boffa was looking to retire. Gammie and Cozzi shared the same account manager at Hallgarten, who, as party to both their plans, made the initial introduction.

Gammie says: “It’s reassuring to know that there’s been a successful merchant here for 22 years. I’ve personally visited lots of these lovely converted farm places, in more rural locations, and it’s good to know that a wine business has already done really well here.

“My agreement with Jason was more of a purchasing of the assets and a little bit of goodwill and a handover in that respect. The rest of it was just establishing a new lease with the landlord. There’s been a nice element of fluidity.”

The Burwash Manor site is about a 40-minute drive from the Hitchin shop, and Gammie lives more or less midway between the two.

“I didn’t want to be too close to our current business,” he says. “Burwash has established itself as a bit of a destination. So I’m expecting to have a totally new set of customers. However, I was in the shop doing a bit of a handover and one of our customers from Hitchin happened to pop in. So there might be a little bit of crossover but generally we’re going to be reaching out to a totally new set of people.

“The location is kind of cool. It’s an old converted dovecote. There’s two levels, and on the top level there are these beautiful, classic, wooden beamed ceilings and this big table for us do lots of events around, which is quite exciting. It’s actually smaller than our shop in Hitchin – it doesn’t have a big footprint at all, which I guess fits in very nicely with our USP of being that smaller, more intimate space.”

Being part of a destination site brings conveniences such as parking and a large outside space dedicated to various events at Burwash Manor Barns throughout the year.

“We would love to be doing a bit more with the events space,” says Gammie. “There’s a wedding marquee and a picnic area, and we’ve already discussed the possibility with the landlord of having our annual Christmas wine fair here.”

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