Covino is a small, independent wine shop and bar originally based in Rufus Court, Chester. It has been trading since early December 2016, selling wines by the glass and bottle to retail customers. More recently, Covino has been selling wholesale wines to ‘high-end’ small to medium-sized independent restaurants and bars in the area.
In addition to providing fine, artisan wines made by small producers to discerning consumers, Covino is also a business customer of Storage King Chester. Our self storage store in Chester has helped Covino with their entrepreneurial journey by providing a convenient and secure business storage solution. Chris Laidler, owner and founder of Covino, shares his story here.
The entrepreneurial journey
While the retail business established itself well, it was limited in its revenue-generating capacity by both the ‘off the beaten track’ location and small footprint of its Rufus Court outlet.
A two-pronged strategy for growth was devised. Firstly, to set up a wholesale wine-selling business. Secondly, to move the retailing shop and bar to larger premises in a more prominent location with greater footfall whilst recasting the business as a wine bar and small plates restaurant.
Chris comments, “For me, the biggest and best aspect of being an SME - and at the same time one of its biggest and scariest downsides - is the sense of ownership and control that I have over the future of my business. Doing something I’ve always wanted to do and achieving a modicum of success and recognition at it is thrilling. The comments of my merry band of loyal, wine-loving customers give me both a sense of achievement and an incentive to make things even better.”
In order to grow, Covino recently moved premises which posed a challenge for the small company. The plan was to complete the refurbishment and move into larger premises in good time to ride the wave of the Christmas and New Year season. This timing went haywire though when they were let down by contractors and the consequence was a total loss of business over what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the high street and the leisure industry.
While this posed a challenge for Covino, they are back on their feet in early January and creating a stir. Recently, they received an unannounced visit from a Michelin Guide inspector at their new establishment within two weeks of its opening. They received unsolicited praise for the chef’s game ragu and soft polenta!
Chris shares some of the lessons he’s learnt through the journey. “Identify and keep the focus on your USPs and put your energy into building and evolving them as the world catches up with you. At the same time, don’t forget the fundamentals of business, like paying the bills and managing the cash flow. If your forte is the creative aspects and engaging with customers, focus on that – but make sure you’ve got someone else in the organisation who attends to the business side and listen to them!”
Safely storing your wine
Storage King fulfils the important role of storing and holding significant quantities of wines for the Covino retail and wholesaling business. The cost of leasing retail units in Chester’s busy city centre is expensive and the availability of large and affordable units is limited. Furthermore, the local council’s city centre highway restrictions limit both the delivery times and drop-off locations of stock.
The renting of Storage King’s off-site storage space just outside the city centre makes sense for Covino. It’s affordable and logistically easy for both Chris and the delivery services.
Chris comments, “The benefits of using Storage King are two-fold. Firstly, Chester’s Storage King facility is conveniently located, just outside the city centre and a five-minute drive from my business premises. It provides me with secure, camera-monitored storage in a clean, dry and easily-accessible unit. In addition, it is cheaper than having to lease a larger trading premises in town.”
“Secondly, and very importantly, the people. James Matthews, the Chester Storage King manager, and his assistant Stephanie have been instrumental in making off-site warehousing work for me. They accept and check palleted deliveries for me and I’ve come to enjoy the warm and friendly can-do professionalism they exhibit in doing so. What I appreciate best is that they both think and act as a part of my business.”
Storage King is proud to have assisted Chris on his incredible entrepreneurial journey. If you need a business storage solution, give us call on 0800 0852 954. Our friendly and professional staff will talk you through our various business storage offerigns and see how best we can help your business grow. Alternatively, you can get a quick and easy online quote.