Sunday, November 16, 2008

Allegro opens first shop in grocery store

If it had been up to Carl Helrich of Allegro Vineyards in The Brogue, Pa., he would have had a retail outlet in a grocery store long ago.

But his lengthy wait is over now, as he operates what he said is the first Pennsylvania winery to place a shop inside a grocery store. Opened for business on Nov. 5, the retail outlet allows customers to taste the line of Allegro wines, buy bottles (including chilled), and purchase other wine accessories. The outlet, staffed fully by Allegro employees, is open noon to 8 p.m. Sundays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

“Giant Foods has been great to work with,” Helrich, the winemaker and owner (along with wife Kris Miller) of Allegro, said by phone on Friday. “They want to work with a Pennsylvnaia winery. I’m a Pennsylvania Preferred winery, and they work with a lot of
Pennsylvania Preferred vendors. Selling wine in Harrisburg is our kind of market, too. We’re known for our premium dry wines, and people up there are really taking to them. I’m really surprised actually with the split between the dry and sweet [wines] up there. People up there definitely enjoy their better wines.”

Besides the winery, Allegro maintains a retail outlet on the outskirts of York, along South Queen Street a few miles north of Dallastown, a spot in the
West Shore Farmers Market in Lemoyne, and operates as part of a cooperative in Lancaster with Twin Brook Winery of Gap, Pa., and Tamanend Winery of Lancaster. Helrich noted that at those locations the percentage of sweet wine sold might exceed 70 percent, but that the shop in Enola has dry-sweet sales that are closer to equal. “I was a little surprised at that,” Helrich said, “although that is what I was hoping. But now that I know a little more about it and have seen more of the demographic numbers, I’m not surprised any more.”

You can’t miss the Allegro outlet as you pull into the Giant store. About 570 square feet, it’s located in an area in what formerly was a bank. “The opening of the Allegro Wine Shoppe enables us to continue to showcase and promote quality products found right here in Pennsylvania's own back yard," Jeff Martin, Giant’s executive vice president for sales and merchandising, said in a release when the announcement of the opening was made. “The Allegro Wine Shoppe will provide customers with the convenience of purchasing wines from a well-recognized vintner at the same time they are shopping for their groceries. We look forward to their great success.”

For Helrich, it ends what he called a five-year search that began with an unsuccessful broaching of the idea to Wegmans and then a spot in a Weis Market in York. But that turned out to be a temporary relationship.

“We were using a special permit, like a festival permit,” Helrich said. “We called it miniature festivals in the Weis. That was December 2005, I think, right about the time that shipping ban was going on . . . and then after that got overturned they decided, well they’re going to do tit for tat and they going to tighten up on festival permits. So they took that away from me, and so I was not be able to sell from a grocery store again. And Weis was not being cooperative as far as letting me open up a shop because they are a little more of a conservative organization, they didn’t want me blowing holes in the outside of their building to put in the outside entrance that’s required. So, about four years ago, I went to an expo for Giant vendors. I gave them all the information and talked to people and said, ‘Boy, if you guys want to, I’ll be there. And they contacted me about a year and a half ago.”