We’ve all heard the horror stories from hospitals around the world: Doctors, nurses and other staff overwork to keep patients alive, as entire healthcare facilities convert into ICU units, with personal protective equipment (PPE) running dangerously low to protect against the contraction of COVID-19. Lack of ventilators, masks, beds and mortuary space are common, scary headlines we read on the regular. As healthcare workers continue fighting for the wellbeing of our global society, communities are coming together to cheer them at shift changes, send meals to hospitals as a thank you, make masks and sanitizer by hand, and even offer everyday essentials and childcare. In Wilmington a local wine shop is providing them a wind-down bottle or two after their shift ends
“I was talking with a customer on the phone who was ordering wine to be delivered, and who happened to be a nurse,” Andrew Bopes tells encore. The Mon Âme Chocolate and Wine Bar owner shut down his shop to the public last month, before Governor Cooper’s executive order mandated most businesses close, and went straight to curbside pickup and delivery to help fight the spread of the virus. “It got me thinking I’d like to help by donating some wine,” Bopes continues.
Bopes reached out to his wine reps to see what kind of support he could garner, and asked David Long at New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) how many personnel would benefit from wine donations. Since many wine reps have been furloughed, they tapped into their personal collection, which gave Bopes the idea to open it to the public. Essentially, anyone can contribute either $25 or $100, and for each $100 donated by the public, a case of wine goes to NHRMC to be distributed to workers on the front line. As a bonus, Mon Âme will match the first 10 cases donated, plus Bopes got one of his distributors, Zingo Munger of Cape Classics, to match the first seven cases with their South African brand Indaba. Once word got out, the idea grew.
“Ed Plowman from Tryon Distributing said he had talked to Steve Hedberg from Bogle Vineyards, who was willing to match 10 cases of his Essential Red,” Bopes says. “Along with the matched cases, local reps have donated almost six cases from their personal collections.”
Bopes’ goal is to get 17 cases pledged by the public, with a deadline of April 19. With all matched bottles included, it will allow him to donate 50 cases—600 bottles—to NHRMC staff. “But there is no limit to what we can do,” he clarifies. “This is basically a collective community gift basket of sorts to say thank you.”
The wine store owner has been stocking up on more affordable wines ($10-$15 a bottle) in order to combat the financial strain many face when it comes to purchasing miscellanies. Still, he says clients are stocking up in the time of COVID. “Because people are buying cases at a time, my shop now resembles more of a warehouse of stacked cases,” he tells. “We are keeping busy with delivery and curbside pickup (offered seven days a week, noon – 5 p.m.), but with keeping wines affordable and knowing people are buying in bulk, our profit margins have dropped and inventory on hand has skyrocketed. If we were to be told to stop operation now, I’d be left holding the bag, which is why I make sure I’m the only one that handles the wine and practice extreme distancing when delivering and outside of the shop.”
After 5 p.m. Bopes is out of the shop, running daily deliveries. “We offer our normal 15% to-go discount for pick-up orders (excluding sale priced items) and don’t charge delivery unless it’s under $50 and outside of downtown,” he tells. “Basically, if someone wants $20 of wine, and they live close to downtown, they won’t be charged, especially when there’s usually a few deliveries running.”
He also hosts virtual wine tastings every week with different reps. Customers can place orders for the two wines to be discussed (usually totaling about $30), then join in on the tasting via Facebook Live. “[We] talk about the region, winery, the wines and then open it up for a Q&A section,” Bopes tells. “The whole thing usually last around 45-60 minutes and is also archived so if you miss the live event you can still taste along at your leisure.”
Folks who wish to place an order or who wish to donate to the “Drink Up, Wind Down” fundraiser for NHRMC staff can email Andrew Bopes at email@example.com. If donating to the fundraiser, please, include the amount and a phone number. “That way I’m able to call back to accept payment and track donations at one time and not have to field calls all day long,” Bopes says. “We are here for our community, if anyone needs a special delivery or can’t pick up wines ’til a certain hour, they should just give a call and I’ll make it happen. Also, everyone, keep your heads up; we will get through this together—at a distance.”