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Retail Review: The Village Wine Cellar

Village Wine Cellar Co-owners Dylan Stiles
and Jeremy Brignolo.

The Village Wine Cellar
189 West St.
Litchfield, CT

Square footage: 1,800

Years in operation: 9 months under current ownership

By Sara Capozzi

For longtime-friends-turned-business-partners Dylan Stiles and Jeremy Brignolo, purchasing Village Wine Cellar was a dream that was several years in the making.

Stiles and Brignolo, both Litchfield natives, had spent their careers in the restaurant industry and had begun to consider package store ownership as a new venture. Inspiration struck one day when an off-the-cuff remark spurred the duo on.

“It was about four years ago,” Brignolo recounted. “We both shopped here and we had known the owner for a long time. I came in on a Sunday and I asked, ‘Pete, what do you do here on a Sunday?’ And he said, ‘I’m waiting for someone like you to buy the place,’ jokingly and it kind of stirred in my head.”

The Village Wine Cellar was indeed a perfect fit. Longtime owner Peter Carpenter, known around town as “Carpy,” had run the shop since 1982 and was close to retirement. Stiles had known Carpy growing up, as his father owned and ran the Superior Foods grocery above the basement where the liquor shop was originally located.

The conversation led Brignolo to realize buying the shop was something he wanted to seriously pursue. While the journey took several years, once he got Stiles on board and they worked out funding and licensing, everything else fell into place quickly; they bought the shop in October 2021. The transition from one owner to another was seamless. No major renovations were needed, besides adding a few shelves and opening up the floor plan.

“We’ve always said we’re not going to change something that’s been successful for 40 years,” Stiles said. “We want to keep it pretty much the same, add a little extra to it but not go crazy.” Both owners’ respective careers in hospitality made it easy to transition into their new roles, too, not just in ownership.

Brignolo formerly oversaw restaurant beverage programs and he was already familiar with wholesale ordering and processes. Stiles’ experience as a chef gave him familiarity with food and wine pairing. His ongoing interest in craft beers has helped with curating and growing that category, as he continues to gain new wine and bourbon knowledge on the job. That said, Village Wine Cellar specializes in its craft brew picks with local brands such as Kent Falls Brewing Co., Half Full Brewery, Woodbury Brewing Company and New Park Brewing, and from neighboring Rhode Island producers, Whalers Brewing Company and Grey Sail Brewing. Local spirits from Litchfield Distillery and Mine Hill in Roxbury, along with wines from Sunset Meadow Vineyards in nearby Goshen, gives shoppers a local focal point too. Wines from an array of regions and price points, along with mainstay beer brands, ever-popular seltzers and ready-to-drink cocktails, plus an extensive selection of bourbons and tequilas, offer visitors variety.

Customers, like the owners, mostly know each other in this tight-knit community. “We love our locals, we love the community here,” Stiles said. “Every business here we try to support and they support us too.”

Day to day, keeping customers content with friendly service and special orders is the main objective for the team at Village Wine Cellar. “Getting a new product doesn’t take long,” Stiles said. “People like that. In some industries, people who want to get their deck or windows done are waiting four months out, but we can make them happy in a day or two.”

 

 

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