Friday, August 20, 2010

New Orlando Specialty Wine Retail Venture

Just a little more than a month after announcing the closure of Park Avenue Wines, Tom Pence, the former owner, has re-emerged on the Orlando Specialty Wine Market scene in an Imperial Wine Bar venture.  According to Tom, he has a 1500-member mailing list, as does John Washburn, the owner of Imperial wines, and by merging those two lists, they attained a critical mass of potential customers which allowed them to pursue an email-wine-offer business.  In this model, Tom would seek out great wine deals which would then be offered to customers on the mailing list.  If a customer wants to make a purchase he/she can either respond to the email or call a telephone number included in the email.  Sales are by credit card only and purchased wines will either be delivered (for case orders only) or can be picked up at the Imperial Wine Bar on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The venture launched with a 2009 Amestoi Txakoli mailing on August 19th.

The business model of the venture is unique in that while it is a part of the revenue stream of every provider in town, in this case it is the core element of the company's business.  I had two conversations about this venture with Tom yesterday, one on the telephone and the other in-person at the Imperial.  He was very positive about the potential of the venture.  In our initial conversation Tom indicated that this was really an Imperial venture and that he was only a consultant.  His level of involvement suggests a very activist consultancy.


  1. Since posting this at 7:16 am this morning, I have been deluged with calls and emails expressing displeasure with Tom's exit from his prior venture and the genesis of the current venture. This particular post is not an endorsement of Tom or his venture per se. It is, as indicated, a reporting on a new initiative in the market space.

  2. The fact is that Tom Pence has been an a--hole to people at every level of this business, from consumers to distributors to importers and wineries. Nobody should be surprised his business failed. And nobody should be surprised when his current venture fails. There is no room in the market for a self-righteous loser that berates his customers to their face and screws his vendors. If you want to know how badly he screwed his vendors, it's public record at

  3. I just stumbled upon this little bit of character assassination. First of all, LOVE the blog! Very professional, very insightful. Secondly, it is true, Park Wine Merchants closed owing money to two wholesalers. I assume the anonymous author of this smear was a young salesman from one of those wholesalers. Park Wine closed because my business model was to buy big deals, make the industry standard 32 gross mark-up and pass the savings along to my customers. So often my wine was half the price of other retailers in Orlando who were buying it one case at a time. Frustratingly, just about every retailer in Orlando and some as far away as Miami and Atlanta became obsessed with my pricing, and they would complain to my wholesalers and Wineries every time I emailed a deal. My "competitors" would have friends sign up for my emails under hotmail accounts and then forward them my pricing and a firestorm of complaints would be launched. All of these retailers would rather complain about me than go out and buy their own 100-200 case deals. But ultimately, my aggressive approach drew the attention of a large chain and they leaned on my largest wholesale partner to control my pricing or shut me down. So buy 100 get 100 became 1 on 5. Effectively, half price wine became 20% off wine. At the same time, the recession hit full blast and many of my customers in Baldwin Park ended up losing their homes. It was a perfect storm made even worse by this same wholesaler listing me after begging me to buy an enormous deal (oh please, please help us make our numbers) that I told them in advance I would not be able to pay off in ten days and then not removing me from the State list until I repaid 35,000 in discounts. That was the last nail in the coffin. Bad luck on the location due to a non-compete agreement, Torchiere interference, and a little razzle-dazzle from the big boys buried me. I assure you any customer that I ever had a disagreement with "it was on them and not me". I will put up with almost anything from a customer. There are many people with questionable morality in the wine business and I have had the misfortune of being screwed over by quite a few of them. It is completely true that I will verbally ream out any winery, wholesaler or sales rep. who screws me over. I am not tolerant of loose morals from the people "who work for me". But I am very tolerant of everything except the most intolerable act from my customers (who I work for). I built Park Wine Merchants from nothing to 880k in sales in 3 years and held on from 2008-2010. If not for that 35k in repaid discounts I would have repaid the other two wholesalers and I would still be a brick and mortar business today. But I can report that my business is doing quite well, no longer affiliated in any way with John Washburn and open for almost six years now (with plenty of happy customers). If the person who wrote the inflammatory post still has a problem with me, he can contact me at But I imagine he was super upset because of how recently everything occurred (6 years ago). So there you go, my side of the story :-). Keep up the good work!