By Logan C. Ritchie | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Brown was born into wine, the third generation of Browns to play a part in the wine and liquor business. In 1985, his father, Don Brown, moved The Wine Shop from the south side of Atlanta to East Cobb in the hope of escaping city life and building his business in the suburbs.
Now Mark Brown, 42, and his father co-own The Wine Shop, facing Johnson Ferry Road just south of Lower Roswell Road. It’s the oldest liquor store still operating in East Cobb.
The younger Brown attended the Lovett School and grew up at The Temple. After college — and many a tennis match — at Rollins University in Winter Park, Fla., Brown returned to metro Atlanta.
“I wanted to be a lawyer/sports agent, like every other guy,” he said with a laugh. But the liquor industry called him to return. “I always enjoyed the business. I love seeing consumer products go from supplier to shelf to customer.”
After some classic mid-20s trial and error, Brown landed back in East Cobb at The Wine Shop.
His first gig, with wholesaler United Distributors, led him to Macon just after he met his future wife, Debra Bressler.
He said he built great relationships with wholesalers while growing up, and his mentors are United Distributors CEO Doug Hertz, who founded Camp Twin Lakes, and National Distributing CEO Jay Davis, who led the charge in creating the Davis Academy. “These respected guys have taught me a lot. I’ve watched in awe about how they flawlessly mix business and community involvement.”
He and Debra, an interior designer, married in 1999. With two tweens in the house, the Browns’ weekends are busy with sports: attending the kids’ soccer and basketball games or watching the Braves, Hawks or Georgia football. Brown’s office is packed with golf paraphernalia, so he would have a hard time denying his love of the greens.
Brown said his business is all about his customers. “Our products are no different than other package stores: Jack Daniel’s is Jack Daniel’s, and wine is wine. You’re not coming [to East Cobb] because you know me. We depend on serving this community. We are only as good as our community.”
Because of the growth in the types of products, increasingly educated consumers and an ease of acquired knowledge, the business has changed, Brown said. The Wine Shop receives calls about food pairings and wine served at a restaurant in Roswell; 10 years ago, he said, people would not have had these questions.
Customer demand and an influx of suppliers have brought complexity to the wine and liquor industry. “There used to be just Absolut,” Brown said. “Now there are 20 types of Absolut. Customers have expanded their taste profiles.”
As the president of the Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association, Brown gets an overview of that complexity and helps represent 500 liquor stores in Georgia.
Brown and his family attend Temple Sinai, where his son Jared recently celebrated becoming a bar mitzvah. His parents, Don and Joan, remain active in the community. On May 14, they will help host an expected 1,000 guests at the 16th-annual Jewish Family & Career Services fundraiser The Tasting at Mason Fine Art in Midtown. Mark Brown is the libations chairman.
His grandmother always said, “It’s made to sell, not to drink.”
More Than Manischewitz
The Wine Shop owner Mark Brown sells a lot of wine, even kosher wine. And, yes, it tastes good.
Kosher wine has a Manischewitz stigma, but grape growers and the quality of kosher wine have changed. An Israeli wine cracked the Top 100 wines listed by Wine Spectator magazine: Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee ranked 93rd.
Besides Israel, kosher vineyards are popping up in California, Washington, Australia and elsewhere.
The Wine Shop recommends:
- Alfasi, Santiago, Chile, in the Maule Valley.
- Recanati, Israel’s Galilee.
- Bartenura, multiple regions in Italy.
- Teperberg, Kibbutz Tzora, Israel, in the Samarian/Shomron region.
- Baron Herzog, Oxnard, Calif., in the Santa Barbara region.
Brown prides himself on providing guidance to customers, especially women, who make up a large percentage of wine purchasers.
“Customer service is very important. Customers are not in the shop for very long. They walk in and out in a short span of time, so we greet every person, carry stuff to cars and staff an extra employee during busy times,” he said. “We try to make the shop bright and pleasant. During the day, women are shopping for wine to go with dinner or for parties. Women are driving wine sales, and we have to cater to that group. When a woman walks in, we need to make her comfortable.”