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Exploring Life & Business with Coly Den Haan of Vinovore

Today we’d like to introduce you to Coly Den Haan.

Hi Coly, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’ve worked in the hospitality industry my entire working life in almost every role possible. When I took my first job as a busgirl when I was 15, I in no way thought the industry would lead me down to path it has. Fast forward ten or so years later, I was bartending here in Los Angeles and it was around the time the cocktail revolution was just starting to hit. I was all about it and for the first time started thinking of opening my own bar. My boss at the time offered to sponsor me to take a Sommelier course and although wine wasn’t really my thing, I figured I had nothing to lose. Of course, I fell in love with wine almost immediately and everything it was about. It wasn’t the pretentious, uptight beverage I had preconceived notions about. My new mission was to spread the word and change peoples’ perceptions. I opened up my first wine bar, The Must, in 2008 in Downtown Los Angeles. From there, I also went on to open the rooftop restaurant, Perch. After almost ten years owning and operating bar/restaurants in DTLA, I was a little burnt out and ready for something new. I opened Vinovore, my first retail shop, in 2017 and now almost four years later, we are looking to expand into our second location.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It has absolutely not been a smooth road! I could fill a whole book with my bumps along the way. First, just being a woman in business and even more so the hospitality business brings with it its own challenges. You have to work extra hard just to be taken seriously and be seen. My first and still most major heartbreaks was losing my first bar in the middle of the night, literally. I was young, eager and signed a bad lease. Three places had failed in the space prior to us and the landlord expected very much for us to do the same. When The Must became successful, the landlord got greedy and kept wanting more. There were a few loopholes built into our contract and a group of shady characters aligned to unceremoniously remove us in the middle of the night. Friday night of July 4th weekend, the landlord came in with three moving trucks and, from midnight after we closed until 7am, moved anything not nailed to the wall into storage and changed the locks. That phone call I got that morning was unreal and devastating. I loved that place so much as if it was a living and breathing being, I was gutted. It was insane (and still pretty Google-able) but ultimately, good things did come out of this loss and set me on the path that got me to where I am today. There have been other struggles, turbulent partnerships and failures along the way, not quite as dramatic as that first one but honestly, some pretty close.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Vinovore?
The most obvious thing that sets us apart from others in this space is that we only focus on female winemakers. We are the first and only wine shop to do this. As a woman in business, supporting other women in business is very important to me and this was a great way for me to do it. We also only carry natural leaning, organic and biodynamic style wines. I also tried to take my unpretentious and accessible approach to wine and insert it into the retail shopping experience with our animal wine tasting chart. Almost like your wine spirit animal so to speak. It’s a fun way to try new things but still drink in your comfort zone. I also really wanted to incorporate a lot of cool goods and books by female authors. This makes for really fun gift boxes with or without wine! We also do educational classes which were in person before COVID-19 and have since moved online.

Also, we are in the process of becoming a certified green business!

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Mainly that people really needed a drink in 2020, myself included! I feel like I opened a whole new business twice last year in order to evolve and serve people the best and safest way we could. When we closed the shop to in store shopping we had to move our entire inventory online which we did in a span of only a few day. It was so stressful but I was so thankful I had a team that could help make it happen. I now feel very confident managing the backend of our e-commerce site, which I had zero idea of how to do before. We also implemented our own delivery service and now own two vehicles. We created a wine window shopping experience as well so people can safely shop outside in person. It was a lot of things and now as things are opening up there’s a whole new set of challenges to figure out but I feel confident we are on it!

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

The Wine Zine White Oak Communications

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