COOL JOBS: Bed-Vyne Wine Founders Talk Nelson Mandela, Tasting Tips And Branding

The classy winery helps the community in numerous ways


Brooklyn, New York City is an ever-changing hub of possibilities. The borough, most famous for birthing greats such as Michael Jordan, the Three Stooges and Christopher Wallace, has another entry to be extremely proud of: Bed-Vyne Wine.

Founded by Rotimi Akinnuoye, Michael Brooks, Peter Medford and Ayo Akinnuoye, this Bedford-Stuyvesant located winery was developed with the community at large in mind. There’s no secret that the former home of Biggie and Jay Z is undergoing a revitalization of sorts. New neighbors are returning back to the hood, generations removed from white flight, and are now frequenting local haunts and diversifying the block. For the founding collective of Bed-Vyne Wine, this is not paramount to the company’s grand desig—ensuring optimum customer service is.

The Tompkins and Putnam Avenue located boutique wine shop is an institution of satisfying tastes and ambiance. Patrons come from all over the borough (and the globe) to whet their palette with wines that are made from grapes harvested based on phases of the moon. In addition to that, the rustic decor boasts reclaimed wood and intriguing lighting to set the mood or get the party started. With years of success and acclaim under their belt, the Bed-Vyne Wine group has opened two other offerings for drinking enthusiasts in the form of Bed-Vyne Brew and Bed-Vyne Cocktail.

Set at the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Bed-Vyne Wine is the premiere destination for your winery needs. In our exclusive chat with the gentlemen behind the establishment, they share with Black Enterprise inside information pertaining to their world domination goals, recall a pivotal moment in history with Nelson Mandela’s daughter and granddaughter, and offer wine tasting advice to any novice interested in getting their sip on. Enjoy!

Black Enterprise: In constructing the concept of Bed-Vyne Wine Store — how did you and your team come to terms with building the business? What ways did you want the place to be different than other wineries in the area?

Bed-Vyne Wine: We were very sure that we wanted to create an atmosphere that prioritizes the customer experience. The space needed to be warm and inviting to allow for engaging conversations about wine. We didn’t have much to work with square-footage wise, so we made certain that every inch of the space was used efficiently. Michael Brooks, one of the company’s partners, developed an idea of arranging the wines by taste category. This took care of the conversation piece. Using reclaimed wood and intricate lighting took care of the “warm and inviting” vibes. All of these things served to differentiate us from all too common—within the black community—”bullet proof” liquor store motif.

Black Enterprise: Speaking of the area, for those reading this outside of the New York area, Brooklyn is undergoing rapid gentrification and rent hikes. Has this been helpful or hurtful to your business? Should a black-owned business be concerned with such changes? Or is it more important to be focused on the bottom line?

Bed-Vyne Wine: Every business must, absolutely must, focus on the bottom line. It is necessary for survival. You can’t do good without doing well. But, in order to do well, a business needs to serve every member of the community with equal zeal. We are excited to have new people moving into the community and, at the same time, we are equally excited that we have been able to create two businesses that provide people with what they’ve been asking for and very much deserve. Ultimately, business survives on customer service, and most customers want the same thing. Whether the neighborhood is gentrified or not, customer service is paramount. That’s what we at Bed-Vyne Wine strive for and focus on each and every single day.

Black Enterprise: As Bed-Vyne continues to expand into a larger entity — what is the team’s overall goal? Where does Bed-Vyne Wine end up going in five-to-ten years?

Bed-Vyne Wine: [Laughs] World domination! We plan to continue to build and expand the Bed-Vyne Wine brand. We want all people to recognize us as an intensely focused group, committed to creating wonderful customer experiences and products. As part of the goal, we are weeks away from opening our third business venture, Bed-Vyne Cocktail. This new endeavor will bring customer experience to a level rarely seen.

Black Enterprise: With an eclectic selection of wines at a respectable price, Bed-Vyne also offers wine tasting. How else does the company and team hope to impact the local community?

Bed-Vyne Wine: Since the conception of the business, our involvement within the community has been extremely important. It is one of our core values. From participating in neighborhood block associations to being members of the Bedford Avenue YMCA Strong Kids campaign to opening our space for small art galleries to collaborating with non-profit organization to serve the community’s homeless, we’ve given back to the community in varying ways. We hope to continue to contribute at greater levels every year.

Black Enterprise: From grapes harvested based on the phases of the moon to podcasts from local musicians — what were some of the most surprising developments you and the team witnessed while building the brand?

Bed-Vyne Wine: We’ve been honestly blessed to have worked and collaborated with winemakers from all over the world. They come into our little wine shop on the avenue to talk about their wine. The most exciting event was when the Mandela family came all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn to launch their House of Mandela brand with us. Makaziwe and Tukwini Mandela, Nelson’s daughter and granddaughter, spent an entire evening with us. They met folks from the neighborhood, signed bottles of their wine, and enjoyed the atmosphere at Bed-Vyne Brew.

Selena Cuffe, CEO of Heritage Link Brands, joined them during their trip. She distributes wines exclusively from South Africa, which includes the House of Mandela brand.

On the next page, the Bed-Vyne Wine guys talk about facing obstacles and impacting the community…

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