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Interview, Part 2: Wilson Daniels President Rocco Lombardo

December 14, 2021

In the second part of our interview, Wilson Daniels president Rocco Lombardo discusses the company’s recent wholesale expansion into Washington state, as well as the state of play in its East Coast wholesale markets of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

SND: Wilson Daniels recently announced the expansion of its Oregon distributor Galaxy Wines into Washington. How are prospects there?

Lombardo: Part of our original plan with Galaxy in Oregon was to have a two-state alignment in Oregon and Washington. Those plans were delayed somewhat because of the pandemic, but effective in January we will put 20 people in the state of Washington, in addition to the 66 people we have in Oregon, and have a solid footprint in the Pacific Northwest. We saw an opportunity with the Underwoods three years ago to really strengthen the fine wine proposition at the wholesale tier in Oregon and Washington. Those markets are also wine production areas. We have some very strong relationships in those states. So getting closer to the wine community, being able to provide expertise in the distribution of fine wine, being able to message product even stronger than the wineries, and being able to brand-build is our mission.

SND: How’s the distribution business progressing on the East Coast?

Lombardo: We operate as a wholesaler in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and if I take a look at the period of 2019 to 2021, we’ve been able to grow our business by approximately $12 million. All of that growth has come outside of Manhattan. Our business in Manhattan, I’m very happy to say, is now starting to show signs of growth compared to 2019. We had the largest revenue month in the history of Wilson Daniels Wholesale in the month of October. So business is back in Downstate New York and Manhattan. We’re excited to see its growth as we go into 2022. But the $12 million that we’ve seen in growth with our East Coast wholesale unit has come from New Jersey, upstate New York and Connecticut.

SND: How has the company weathered the pandemic in your view overall?

Lombardo: We were able to stabilize our business so that it was revenue neutral at the end of 2020, and 2021 has been an explosive year for us. Not only have we maintained our workforce, but from 2019 to the end of 2021, we will grow our workforce by nearly 13%. That investment in human capital has been a driving force behind our growth. We have supportive partners in the Underwoods making investments in the business. And I can’t state emphatically enough the partnerships that we have at the wholesale level with RNDC, Breakthru, the Martignetti Companies up in New England, amongst many others, and the trade relationships we have across the country. Those are the reasons why I think we’ve been so successful.

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