I am fond of wine. Almost every situation life hurls at me can be improved by a sip or two of the right varietal.
There are two wine stores in my Brooklyn neighborhood. One tends to the upscale. They host regular tastings, and I never cease to be entertained and infuriated in equal parts by the pretentious nonsense that comes out of the manager's mouth. The other is a liquor store. The only tastings here happen on the street right outside. The cabernet vies for shelf space with Mystique (a fruity aperitif), lottery tickets, and a telling selection of miniatures, but the owner is knowledgeable and down-to-earth, and has a surprisingly good range of wine.
I usually dash into one of these establishments on the weekend with children in tow. For me, this is just part of getting the weekly essentials, along with toilet paper and tea bags. The boys know not to partake of the tastings in the first store, and not to block the lottery line in the second.
But we sometimes get Looks. Not from the staff. They know us all by name (make of this what you will). No, the Looks are from other members of the clientele. How someone buying a quarter bottle of Jack for immediate street-side consumption has the gall to look at me askance for allowing my kids within sniffing distance of wine amazes me. But Look they do.
So I was doubly delighted to happen upon a wine store near work on 20th Street in Manhattan just recently. It has a fine collection across multiple price points (from "God I need a drink, it won't touch the sides so I don't want to spend more than $15", to "I work damn hard and I damn well deserve this").
But fine as the wine is, there is something even finer. A play area. In a wine store. For kids. It has blocks, and balls, and books, to keep little ones occupied while parents shop. Brilliant.
The message to parents is "Come in! Linger! Do not be ashamed that you cannot do this shit sober! None of us can!"
That's my kind of message.
But what I like even more is the message to kids. "Come in! Play! Mummy needs to pick up wine. And that doesn't make her a reprobate! In Europe they drink wine every day! It does not automatically mean that you will end your days slamming back quarter bottles of Jack street side! Wine is fine, in moderation!"
They don't do pretentious nonsense or lottery tickets I'm afraid. But they do deliver.