Wellesley Votes "Yes" on Retail Wine at Grocery - What's Next?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Our fair Wellesley quietly held town elections yesterday and included a single important but confusingly worded ballot question:

"Shall an act passed by the general court in the year 2014, entitled 'An Act authorizing the town of Wellesley to place a question on the town election ballot authorizing the town to grant 6 licenses for the sale of wines and malt beverages not to be drunk on the premises', be accepted?"

I had to reach out to Townsman reporter Jordan Mayblum for clarity on what this measure would mean if approved. He clarified that its passage would allow the town to issue licenses to as many as six grocery stores in Wellesley to sell beer and wine.

The results are in and the response was overwhelmingly positive: 2,248 "yes" to 336 "no".

So where do we go from here?

The grocery store behind the passage of this initiative was Fells Market. It's my walking-distance go-to spot for sandwiches, steak tips and more and I'm looking forward to them selling wine as I'm sure many in our neighborhood are:

I think they could do a bang-up special order business. And they could probably do really well with focused email offers too thanks to their super-convenient location to thirsty townspeople.

But what about Whole Foods and Roche Bros?

Changes at the state level play into the dynamics of which other stores in town will likely apply for licenses. Back in 2011 laws limiting the number of liquor licenses any given entity can hold changed and the following schedule will allow grocery store chains to sell liquor at more of their locations:
  • 2011: 3 licenses per corporation
  • 2012: 5 licenses
  • 2016: 7 licenses
  • 2020: 9 licenses
I don't think Wellesley is one of the top 5 or even 7 Whole Foods locations in the state they'd target for wine sales, but perhaps top 9. We shall see.

Roche Bros supermarket does seem like a likely candidate however given that the Wellesley location is one of their newer and larger stores.

But I think the most interesting development here is yet to come. I think this paves the way for an exciting new gourmet grocer or two to make a play here in town. I wrote this for The Swellesley Report in 2012:
A high quality retail wine boutique/gourmet grocery could be an asset to the town in a similar manner as John Dewar MeatsWasik’s Cheese Shop and Blue Ginger. And who wouldn’t love the convenience of picking up some vino at the Wellesley Whole Foods along with the rest of your groceries?
Who do you think could make this kind of play? Formaggio Kitchen? Wasik's in a new location? A new retailer we haven't yet heard of? A mini-Eataly? What do you think?

It's rare to get an opportunity to cover a truly Wellesley wine-related topic here on The Wellesley Wine Press. But isn't it comforting to know this important coverage exists? ;) I'd love it if you subscribed to the site to keep up with future developments. If Wellesley isn't exactly on your radar screen maybe you'll enjoy this slideshow of the Best (and Worst) Wines to Buy Now at Trader Joe's. Or this list of grocery stores in Massachusetts that already sell wine.


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