Christy Frank, Woman Entrepreneur, Frankly Wines

20120803christyfrankwinestoryAn entrepreneur is a person who operates their own business that comes from their own idea and generally takes on risk to do it.  Someone who reads this blog introduced me to Christy Frank.  Christy is an entrepreneur who figured out what she really wanted to do which is owning and running her own wine store, Frankly Wines.  I love that she figured it out and is doing it successfully.  In many ways, Christy is the type of entrepreneur that keeps our economy going.

Christy grew up in Tiffin Ohio which is basically an hour and a half away from any airport.  She was surrounded by cornfields.  Her parents were both teachers.  Her father taught music at the local junior high and high school.  Her mom taught developmentally disabled children.  Neither of her parents were from that area but had gone to college there and never left.  Everyone knew them.

After graduating high school, Christy made her way to Cornell University where she majored in Government, Economics and International relationships.  She didn’t have this burning desire to leave Ohio but she got into Cornell and off she went.  She even spent the majority of her summers in Ithaca working for the safety department dispatch for library and escort services on campus.

At Cornell Christy took some of the classes at their hotel school.  There is one wine class that everyone must take as a junior if you are in the hotel school. When you turn 21 you can take the class even if you aren’t part of the hotel school.  The class has roughly 500-800 people in it depending on which semester you take it.  It was an incredible class and Christy loved it.  She found that she loved talking about wine.

After graduating Cornell she went to a 9 month masters program at the London School of Economics because she always assumed she would do something in finance and economics.  She returned to Boston when the program ended landing a job at Fidelity where she worked on security and data for trading systems.  She was working with all the desks on compliance.  She didn’t love it but the money allowed her to buy wine.

She began to think about how do I continue to be drink and learn about wine without paying for it.  Boston has a wine expo and Christy would go every year.  Every night she would walk home from work she would pass a wine store that she loved.  One day she passed it and saw there was a job sign in the window.  She wound up taking a job there and working on Sundays.  Sundays turned into Saturdays and Sundays and then turned into Wednesday nights too.  They told her if she could be there at 5pm during the week she could talk with the distributors and help them decide what to buy.

Around this time her husband (who she had met at Cornell and was in Boston too) and Christy decided to apply to go to business school.  They both got into Columbia and made the move.  Christy was thinking that wine was just a hobby.  She needed to figure out a career that would make her happy.  She knew finance and consulting but she did not know marketing so that is what she would learn in graduate school.

She got sucked in her first year and worked for Knoll the summer between her two year program.  Also to note there was a huge wine club at school she became part of but still nobody thought of that as a career.  At Knoll she loved the chairs and forgot about wine.  Christy graduated biz school in 2000 which was the beginnings of selling everything on the Internet.  After the two years were coming to a close she still had no idea what she wanted to do.  There was an interview on campus with LVMH and although she had zero interest in fashion it was her experience in wine and Knoll that interested them.

At LVMH Christy worked in the futura program which no longer exists today.  They hired a bunch of MBA students to rotate through different parts of the organization so they could understand and learn each one eventually falling into the one that made the most sense.  Christy ended up in the wine and spirits group working on a variety of things including cognac and a new rum launch.  Then she had a child.

After having a kid it was really hard to go back.  Work was intense and the hours were long.  She knew that first year back after having a kid was going to be an insane amount of travel and decided to take a step back.  They asked her not to leave as a lot of changes were happening in the organization.  They had taken three different divisions in spirits and merged them all into one.  They had a serious wine portfolio.  She realized it was that wine background that landed her the job at LVMH in the first place so she put herself up as a candidate for this new division.  She did that for three years and learned everything she could about wine inside a large luxury corporation.  There was no other jobs she wanted there.  She always loved retail.  She gave the company three months while thinking about opening up her own place.

She was going to take time to do market research, look for a space and plan accordingly.  The first week being on her own she walks by a store in her Tribeca neighborhood that has a for lease sign in the window. Within two weeks she has signed the lease without any business plan, no thoughts on best practice.  She just did it.

Frankly Wines has now been open for 7  years.  The walk in and buy a bottle is the core of her business.  When she opened she wanted to keep it small and make sure it was located in a good foot travel location.  2008 was tough but she was new, small and organically growing.  She has yet to have down year.  Christy carries small vintners, quirky wines and also classics.  She is going to start doing more on the web and working with wine classes.  She also has three kids and her youngest is 6 1/2.  You do the math.

Christy owns her own life on her own terms.  That is what I call a great woman entrepreneur.


Comments (Archived):

  1. ewoodsny

    Christy & her store are jewels of NYC! It’s great that you wrote about her.

    1. awaldstein

      Yup! One of the best and around the corner from probably the best one anywhere.

  2. Emily Merkle

    I *really* enjoy these profiles you do. They are so personal, I have never seen anything like them.

  3. c

    Love these profiles – so inspiring and clearly written from a place of invigorating motivation

  4. LE

    The walk in and buy a bottle is the core of her business.I don’t know anything about wine but I buy wine. The problem I always have is one of discovery. I walk into the wine store and I’m confronted with a zillion choices and I have no idea what to buy even with a particular category (say Riesling or Gewurztraminer).There is a real point of purchase problem in the wine retail business, at least at the wine stores that I have been in. I don’t want to read wine blogs, I don’t want to ask anyone for a suggestion, I don’t want to figure anything out, I just want to be able to walk into the store and have the store display essentially tell me what to buy. [1] Point of purchase.Last time I was in a wine store last week I just went with the “staff selections”. I know true wine people will laugh about this but that’s part of the problem. They aren’t able to think like the 90% of wine store customers (or more importantly potential customers) that say “don’t make me think”.I have recently started to buy cheese and have noticed the same problem. You are confronted with a bunch of cheese and don’t really have a clue about what to pick. (In this case the cheese person was right behind the display so I asked..)[1] Back when there were video stores it amazed me that they didn’t have video displays arranged in a way that said “If you like this (say “The Godfather”) you will also like “Goodfellas”. Wine stores could do a version of that or there are a million other things they could do that are similar.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I have always wanted the cheese store to keep a file on me so they can tell me what I bought last time. Then ask me what I thought when I return. That way I can just buy it again or shift selections. It would be even great if the cheese store shot me an email after a few days and ask me what I thought and entered it into their data base.Would work for wine too.

      1. LE

        Maybe even a text message that you can reply to. A system like that wouldn’t be that hard to do actually.

        1. Gotham Gal

          it absolutely wouldn’t

      2. awaldstein

        Wine stores make their business on two types of customers–drop ins and repeat.The larger the repeat customers, online or in persons the more solid the biz and the more personal and magic it becomes.I know a lot about wine. I don’t shop anywhere where the buying is unassisted.It’s a perfect system. And completely scalable to the model of the business.

    2. awaldstein

      You are the person that wine clubs are made for.Lots of great ones.

    3. Nick_Moran

      Was at a wine event this week where master sommelier, Serafin Alvarado, presented on wine purchase psychology. He cited three elements in a simplified example… the consumer, the grape and the winemaker. In Europe, the grape/varietal is of low importance. The consumer purchases based on the label/winemaker. The grape is only considered as a food-pairing consideration. “I’m in the mood for a Chateau Saint-Sulpice.” Whereas in the states, the consumers first decision is based on the grape. “I want a cab!” In his view, the decision process is backwards, here in the states. This is a large reason why you see more blends, no varietal listed on the front label, in Europe, whereas the main grape is often featured in the U.S.So it seemed his message was to try and learn the winemakers that one really enjoys and focus less on the grape. Can provide a better frame of reference and easier decision-process when purchasing.

      1. Gotham Gal

        That’s really interesting

      2. Stephan Froede

        Interesting point, I’m living in a whine producing area in Germany (Rheinhessen/Rheingau), buying at local vintners you need to know the grape. B/c the label is of little help and there are hundreds if not thousands of labels.You also need to know that some grapes are not grown in some parts, i.e. Red wine isn’t grown in Rheingau but Rheinhessen, btw: I only can recommend red wine from around Ingelheim;-)

  5. LE

    Within two weeks she has signed the lease without any business plan, no thoughts on best practice. She just did it.Hopefully she has the lease locked up with good renewal clauses.

    1. awaldstein

      She is as smart as they come.

  6. pointsnfigures

    I like this post because she doesn’t have a “scalable startup” in the classic sense. She is simply an entrepreneur. Most people are like her. Mom and pop businesses. It’s ‘Merica and it’s great.

    1. Gotham Gal

      most people are definitely like her.

  7. awaldstein

    Thrilled to see this.I’ll step forward as the person who recommended her.She’s a good friend and an example of what makes this city work.And damn– a wine lover with a sense of her market like no other.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great intro!

  8. Steve Palmer

    Went to a tasting at FW following a friendly visit with @disqus_Awy3Cl8ObF:disqus about a year or so back. Christy is welcoming, friendly and smart; FW is great shop (sadly, PA may never have a place like this). So happy to have learned more about the path that led Christy to opening FW.

  9. Paul DeMars

    Christy is a textbook case of ‘do what you love & you’ll never work another day in your life’. Bravo!BTW, the Morgon (the Beaujolais in the photo with Christy) is an excellent varietal; a great wine to experience younger, lighter French wines. Had to say it…..