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Interview: New Jersey-Based Wine Chateau Thrives With Online Sales

August 12, 2015

Wine Chateau CEO and president Saurabh Abrol joined his father’s modest drinks retailing business in New Jersey while he was still in college. A technology whiz, Abrol created an online presence for Wine Chateau in 2004, and it took off. Within a few years, Winechateau.com topped $12 million in sales. The company also operates four brick-and-mortar stores in the Garden State, with total annual revenues reaching more than $25 million, led by wine.

SND: What prompted you to go so heavily into online retailing?

Abrol: My father opened his first liquor store, a small mom-and-pop operation, in South Orange, New Jersey in 1994. I joined him part-time in 1999 while I was in college at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and I came on full-time after graduation in 2001. My degree is in computer science, and after I successfully launched Winechateau.com in 2004, we were able to grow our brick-and-mortar business to four units.

SND: As CEO, what’s your focus today?

Abrol: I’m heavily involved in strategizing the growth of our brand. The Internet side grew fast because there wasn’t much competition when we started. We were one of a handful of stores that could ship wine across the country at the time. Our Internet growth was rapid, and after a few years our brick-and-mortar stores caught up in sales. Today, we’re always looking for more store locations.

SND: How have you incorporated your technology experience into the brick-and-mortar stores?

Abrol: Our store designs and logistics are different. We have wide aisles and bright lights. We use LCD screens in the aisles instead of traditional signs, which creates a fresh feel. Because our Internet business has created such strong buying power, we have great relationships with suppliers and distributors. That allows us to offer prices that a lot of our competitors can’t match.

SND: You also operate a bar. How does that fit with the business model?

Abrol: We have the upscale lounge and bar Le Malt next to our store in Colonia, New Jersey. We host high-end spirits and wine events and pairing dinners at the venue. First, we focused on our brick-and-mortar operation, and then we started the website. But we always wanted to get into the restaurant and bar business, to create different verticals in the beverage alcohol industry. So now we have a presence in all three areas.

SND: What are your plans going forward?

Abrol: We’re looking to grow in the next five years by at least two or three locations a year— mostly in New Jersey but eventually, once we saturate this market, we’ll branch out. We hope to reach more than $100 million in revenues in the next five years. We’ll also continue to evolve the online portion, with new technology to retain customers.

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