Navigating the Coronavirus Pandemic as a Destination Winery, with Erica Paolicelli

Episode 174

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Erica Paolicelli is a Partner at Three Brothers Wineries & Estates and War Horse Brewing Company located in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Erica joined the company in 2007, before it opened its doors, and helped grow the destination and brand which now sees 150,000+ visitors annually, has distribution regionally to over 300 locations, and employs 150 full- and part-time employees. The campus at Three Brothers houses Iron Heart Coffee Company, a café serving lunch (and soon to be dinners) daily and also hosts private events. Erica is a strategic planner, marketer and brand builder at heart with a keen business sense. She serves on several regional boards including the IDA, the NY Wine Industry Association, the Finger Lakes Community College Advisory Board, and Geneva Community Projects. Together with her colleagues, Erica is one of the founders of the successful Rose Soiree held annually in downtown Geneva which has raised $30k in funds donated to local community organizations. Erica is a firm believer that the rising tide raises all ships and she thinks it’s her calling to inspire collaboration within her community to help the Finger Lakes continue to be recognized as a premier destination on a global scale. In this episode of Destination on the Left, Erica Paolicelli, Partner at Three Brothers Wineries and Estates and War Horse Brewing Co., explains how she and her team are responding to the current coronavirus pandemic. She discusses the creative solutions they thought up and have implemented since the shelter-in-place and social distancing restrictions have gone into effect. And she talks about the unique visitor experiences that make Three Brothers Winery a destination in and of itself!

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why Three Brothers Winery is a destination
  • Why the experiences offered at Three Brothers Winery are unlike any other winery in the country
  • How Three Brothers is developing products like their new wine spritzer to accommodate curbside pickup and delivery
  • Why Three Brothers decided to lean into their online presence in response to the global pandemic
  • How Erica and her team are responding to the current coronavirus pandemic
  • Creative solutions that Three Brothers has thought of and implemented since the shelter-in-place and social distancing restrictions have gone into effect
  • How Three Brothers is using old school communication techniques to garner support from the local community

The Ultimate East Coast Wine Destination

Erica Paolicelli is a Partner at Three Brothers Wineries & Estates and War Horse Brewing Company located in the heart of the Finger Lakes region in New York State. In our discussion, Erica shares so many creative ideas about how to navigate the coronavirus pandemic in the travel and tourism industry. Erica and her team have thought up and implemented innovative solutions in response to the shelter-in-place and social distancing restrictions. And their ability to use creativity and collaboration is one of the many reasons Three Brothers Winery is a destination in and of itself!

Rally Around a Vision

Erica started with Three Brothers as an intern before the winery was anything like it is today. Over time, she moved from $15/hour to a 1% share in the company and, eventually, she started buying stock as well. Erica became a partner because she believes in Dave Mansfield’s vision, and that vision made Three Brothers what it is today. It is no small task for a leader to energize people around their vision or to keep their ego out of the mix. Dave did both, and his ability to see what Three Brothers could become combined with Erica’s drive and ability to execute led Three Brothers to become one of the top wineries in the Finger Lakes region.

Use Creativity to Open New Streams of Revenue

The Three Brothers campus has three wineries and a brewery, each with an entirely unique experience from shopping to food and entertainment—it is Disney World for adults. The creativity that makes Three Brothers a destination has also helped them navigate the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, they have been deemed an essential business because they are a beverage manufacturer, but the tasting rooms and communal spaces have been shut down. They decided to lean into their online presence to engage their current audience to drum up excitement for future events. They are generating long-form content to add value to their customers and give their readers something to look forward to. They are even doing wine slushies to-go which has driven pick-up orders significantly, and they added merchandise to the website. Coupled with a push for real conversations between Three Brothers leadership and their clientele, Erica and her team have seen an outpouring of support from the local community and wine lovers all over.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:19 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left and welcome to this week’s episode with another smart podcast guest, Erica Pala [inaudible] partner at three brothers wineries in the States and more or less brewing company located in the heart of the finger lakes region of New York state. Eric has shares so many creative ideas with our listeners. In this episode you will definitely want to have a pen and paper ready. We talk about how three brothers winery is a destination in and of itself and the unique experiences that are offered there unlike any other winery in the country. We also go in depth on how Erica and her team are responding to the current Corona virus pandemic and the creative solutions that they have thought of and implemented in such a short time since the shelter in place and social distancing restrictions have gone into effect. If you are listening to this in real time, I am sure you will get a lot of creative ideas from Erica as you navigate the pandemic for your tourism organization.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:25 If you are listening to this in the future, there are so many lessons here to help you navigate any challenging time, but before we get started a little more about Erica. Erica joined three brothers winery in 2007 before it opened its doors and helped grow the destination and brand, which now sees 150,000 plus visitors annually as distribution regionally to over 300 locations and the employees 150 full and part time employees. The campus at three brothers. How’s his iron heart coffee company, a cafe serving lunch and soon to be dinners daily and also hosts private events. Erica is a strategic planner, marketer and brand builder at heart with a keen business sense. She serves on several regional boards including the Ida, the New York wine industry association, the finger lakes community college advisory board in Geneva community projects together with her colleagues. Erica is one of the founders of this successful rosacea soiree held annually in downtown Geneva, New York, which has raised $30,000 in funds, donate it to local community organizations.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:43 Erica is a firm believer that the rising tide raises all ships and she thinks it’s her calling to inspire collaboration within her community, the help the finger lakes continue to be recognized as a premier destination on a global scale. Now let’s dive into the interview. Erica, thank you so much for joining us today on destination. On the left. I’m really excited to speak with you and to learn all about what you have going on at three brothers. Um, before, before we get started with the questions, can you share a little bit about your story and how you got to where you are? I find it offers so much more context to our conversation.

Erica Paolicelli: 03:24 Sure. So, um, I went to school for dietetics, so completely not in my industry that I, I’m kind of a now. Um, I got out of college and came back home, which was the finger lakes for me. And I was looking for a summer job because I was on my way to Missouri for exercise, nutrition and um, stumbled upon [inaudible], Maggie’s Newland vineyard and winery that I was looking for a tasting room associate for the summer. So I decided what could be more fun than working in a winery for the summer. And I applied aye pulled into the driveway on Lynch road. And if you’ve ever been to three brothers, right? [inaudible] recent history, it’s [inaudible] kind of a campus. It’s big compound. It was not that when I pulled in, it was a dirt driveway. It was a 10 by 10 building. Uh, and I was like, this can’t be it.

Erica Paolicelli: 04:18 It looked abandoned, frankly. There was a Porter body outside. And for me that was like a no-go. That was like a hard stop. So, um, Colton and I S I look around, not even getting out of my car and I said, eh, and you know what? What’s really funny, and I never have told Dave Peterson this, but I had an interview at Swedish Hill after that, which I never made it to because, uh, as I was polling going to reverse and get out of the driveway, I hear my windows are down. Of course I’m okay. Broke college kid, you know, just graduated. I don’t have air conditioning in my car. It’s a hot summer day and I hear someone yell, Hey, are you here for an interview? And uh, so I was like, shoot, you know, I put it in park and I look over and here comes Dave Mansfield walking towards my car and I said, hi.

Erica Paolicelli: 05:09 Yeah, I’m, I’m Erica, uh, as this open. And so he starts explaining to me, um, what his goal was for the property. He had just bought the property. He tells me he’s going to build three wineries onsite and that he wants to keep nagging is open because there’s inventory of wine that he wants to sell while the construction is going on. And so we get talking and he’s just, if you’ve ever met Dave, he’s, his excitement is contagious and he’s always excited. So he’s got some kind of idea. He’s the most creative person I’ve ever met. And, uh, so we’re talking and he offers me a job. Now, this was 2007 and he told me, I think he told me it was going to start me up, $15 an hour. [inaudible] is a broke college kid, you know, in 2007 was like sold.

Erica Paolicelli: 06:00 What could you start? And I said tomorrow. Um, so I was the only employee and really, you know, uh, funny was like weeks in, in, uh, I said to him, I have a doctor’s appointment. How do I get a day off? Because I had been working every day cause I was the only employee and there was nobody else there. He was still with his other job. And so he didn’t even realize what was going on. And, um, so he’s like, Oh, just close. You know, honestly, there wasn’t many people that were coming down the driveway at that point. And, uh, so we just, I spent my summer there painting the deck, planting gardens, trying to keep his [inaudible]. Um, it was a really kind of unique position. Well, every once in a while someone would pull down the driveway and I would just be like talking to them, selling them wine.

Erica Paolicelli: 06:47 And then as the summer went on, he kept telling me about his vision for the wineries that were being built. And I really bought into that. And so, uh, well before I was getting ready to leave, I was, I was kind of trying to talk myself into going because [inaudible] Mmm. I didn’t really, I wasn’t really sure that what I was doing was what I should be doing or what I really wanted to be doing. And with dietetics, you’re to be a registered dietician, you’re entered into a lottery program. And so I, uh, I didn’t get the placement that I wanted. And Missouri was my third choice. And so I was really unsure about what I was doing. So he said to me, if you want a job here, you could help manage this place. And I was young and naive and I’m glad that I was because [inaudible] that decision was placed before me today.

Erica Paolicelli: 07:40 I probably would do the smarter thing and go get my, um, my registered dietician certificate and start working as a registered dietician. But I didn’t. And so I stayed. And, uh, another funny part about that is I thought that I would be hired as the general manager to start off with and I wasn’t, I was hired as a assistant, so he hired someone else with more experience. And, um, long story short, within six months, I took that position over a fast forward five years in and he asked me to partner with him. Him and his wife Louanne were, uh, the sole owners of the winery at that time. And I did. He offered me a 1%, um, share in the company, just I’m with my sweat equity, basically, it was a [inaudible] a gift. Um, and so that’s how I started in the partnership. And then fast forward even further, uh, I started buying stock in the company.

Erica Paolicelli: 08:39 And so, uh, last year I bought a, a big portion of the stock. And then, um, my husband, Justin, last year, he actually got offered a partnership as well, so he is started on the same path that I was started on, um, seven years ago now. And so there are four partners, myself and my husband Justin and Dave Mansfield and Louann Mansfield. I think that’s, um, that’s a really cool story. And, and I love how he chased you down the driveway. Yeah. You’re calling me for the interview then. That’s how life happens, right? Yeah, exactly. But, um, but what’s so cool about that is, um, it’s so interesting because I talking about a lot about leadership lately and, and what makes a great leader and the ability to get people to be energized around a vision is no small task. Right? And here, David’s standing in this driveway really selling you on his vision.

Erica Paolicelli: 09:41 Um, and so I think that just really demonstrates what a great, or he, uh, he is and, and was at that time. And then your ability to, you know, grow with the business, I think is just an amazing opportunity to really literally see it from the ground up. Right, right. And the one thing that Dave has always done right. And one thing that I have the highest amount of respect for him for doing, being able to do this because not every leader can do this, is he sets aside his ego. He knows he’s the most creative person in the company, but he also knows he, he can’t do it alone. And he knows that there are people that are better at other tasks than he can be. And so [inaudible] we make a great partnership because I can see all of his ideas and I can see the big picture, but then I can actually make them happen.

Erica Paolicelli: 10:30 And so, um, as we grew together and as we grew the business together, that partnership are strengths. Playing out with each other is what made three brothers what it is today. And we both recognize that. So he really had that vision and I have the drive in the, um, work ethic, get it done in [inaudible]. That is, that combination is very, very powerful. Absolutely. And for our listeners benefit, I know some of our listeners will be familiar with the finger lakes and with three brothers, but others are from all over the country. Um, and so can you talk a little bit about three brothers cause it’s really a unique, you described it as a campus and it literally is a campus, right? So three brothers is three wineries, a brewery. We have a coffee house, we have a large portfolio of products for as far as the destination.

Erica Paolicelli: 11:25 Three brothers is a place where you drive to and the heart of the finger lakes, right on the Northeast end of Seneca Lake. And you get out of your car and there’s a sprawling campus for you to walk around and visit three wineries, a brewery, eat lunch, there’s entertainment and a lot of the days, a ton of shopping. And it’s a whole experience. Every day. Winery is different and unique in its own way from wine to decor to the shopping available inside to the staff that’s working in each place. And, um, that’s three brothers as a destination, as a company from when we were founded in 2007. We’ve grown from just me is the sole one employee to 150, full and part time employees. We have increased our production tenfold. We have a self-distribution kind of, I call it a company within a company. So what’s unique about our distribution model is that we actually self-distribute [inaudible] we have a little sales team, we have a fleet of vehicles that do all of the delivery of our product and sales of our product.

Erica Paolicelli: 12:30 We don’t have a distributor, uh, and yeah, have about 350 accounts that we do that with regionally here. So we’ve grown from that little 10 by 10 building too to that. That’s kind of our, um, where we’re at today. Uh, we have throughout the years tried other things and in the moment they were good. For example, we opened a satellite store in the Eastview mall and Victor and it was a 3000 square foot store and it worked out for us for a few years. And then as retail kind of is doing what retail is doing, we decided to get out of that. Um, and we’ve opened a restaurant. [inaudible] did sell that. And so right now, three brothers as it looks today is on lurch road.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:19 That’s awesome. Well, that’s great. And uh, with, um, so much creativity and how you approach that business, I know you’re going to have a lot to say, uh, for these next set of questions. So let’s dive in. And um, the very first question is just kind of talking about, you know, how competitive, uh, tourism and hospitality can be. Um, and I’m wondering what kinds of things have you done? And I know you’ll probably have a lot of examples for this to help three brothers really stand out from

Erica Paolicelli: 13:50 the crowd. Um, so one thing that we’ve done from day one is we decided to have three wineries all on one property. The reason we did that, and when we’re talking about standing out in a crowd is that if you look at the wine trail in specific, the Seneca Lake wine trail, there’s all these dots along the map. And in 2007, there were no dots on the pro, on the end of the Lake where our property is located. So, uh, one thing that we did there is we having three wineries gives people a reason to drive to the Northeast end of Seneca Lake. Um, that’s unique in itself. At that point, there was no one else in the country that had had the kind of business that we have with three [inaudible] distinctly different wineries on one property since then. I think there has been one in Virginia, the folks that built that actually visit our winery when they were thinking about putting that in place.

Erica Paolicelli: 14:42 Um, but it’s [inaudible] that itself is uniquely different. We also, a lot of the wineries around Seneca Lake have their own story. That story looks similar in ways. So we’re family owned. Uh, we have a beautiful view of the Lake and we have a farm here and I love that story, but [inaudible] the same for a lot of places. And so one thing that’s uniquely different about our place is that we’re not, well, we consider each other family, but we’re not family owned. I’m not related to Dave and his wife. Mmm. But we also have a story of the uniqueness of, of the experience on our property. So I mentioned that each winery looks and feels completely different. That’s intentional. Every please that you visit on the property. We’ve been compared to Disneyland or Disney world in a lot of instances for adults because it is themed. Each building we have our more distinguished winery that does look very similar to our [inaudible] colleagues around the Lake.

Erica Paolicelli: 15:42 And it’s got the nice tasting room overlooking the beautiful vineyard and onto Seneca Lake. But then we also have a barn that’s know it’s okay. Kind of a French boutique feel and it’s got a lot of [inaudible] uh, shopping in it. And it’s a different vibe. It’s got concrete floor, it’s like an industrial kind of vibe. I’m within a barn. And, um, then we have bagged dare, which is one of the wineries where we’re most known for. It’s a Louisiana bio-type building that sits on a pond and there’s an old truck that’s sunk into the pond with a bandstand on the back that we have live music from on the weekends. And so what I’m saying is that’s what kind of sets us apart and makes us a little bit more unique than the then the average, um, visit when you’re, when you’re coming to the finger lakes.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:32 Absolutely. And, um, I, I’ve, I’ve heard your campus compared to Disney world for the helps before and, and that really is when you walk into, you know, each winery or the brewery, you do feel like you’ve been,

Erica Paolicelli: 16:47 Mmm, you’ve been transformed into this other, you know, Mmm.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:51 Area. You know, like you mentioned the Louisiana by you for example, you really do feel like

Erica Paolicelli: 16:57 that’s where you are when you, when you walk into that section of your campus. And that’s really incredible. Do you ever say, it used to bother me that people would say that, but you know what? I think it’s a compliment in the end. Um, and I don’t know why actually it used to bother me. I think just because it’s so commercial Disneyland is, and it’s, we are a very small private, okay, tight knit team. [inaudible] [inaudible] we do everything ourselves. Like that creativity that you’re seeing, all that decor. That’s Dave. So he goes around to antique shops and he finds the perfect things to hang on the walls. He physically hangs it on the walls himself. And so that part of it bothers me, but in the end, Disney is the best at what they do. And so I decided to start taking that as a compliment.

Erica Paolicelli: 17:43 Absolutely. And the other thing I’m curious about is because you have this campus and all of these experiences, I would imagine that your average visitor, um, time’s spent, you know, on your property is exponentially longer than it would be, you know, in a traditional winery that might just have the one, the one offering. That’s true. Uh, we do say about an hour and a half. So if people are coming and visiting multiple wineries for the day, and they do call us and they say, how much time should we allot? We tell them an hour and a half. Um, but you could really spend the whole day there. So it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to hop around and see a few different places, an hour and a half would kind of be the minimum. Um, and then if you want to spend more time there, there’s definitely more to do. We have a courtyard area that we set up with outdoor tables in games and things to keep you occupied.

Erica Paolicelli: 18:39 And I mentioned we do have a cafe on site. We have a extensive coffee programs. So if you’re just getting tired of, of, uh, drinking, you can get a latte hang out outside or you can’t have a lunch meeting in there. We do. I have a lot of that during the week. Um, so there’s just a lot to keep you occupied. And I also mentioned the shopping, so that actually does take a while. We have made a concerted effort to fill the, the each tasting room with other things. And so, you know, as business people, we realize that that’s a valuable asset because it’s really, you don’t need a person to sell, uh, you know, a trinket or a new top or something. It’s just real estate that you need and that we have. And so we’ve, we’ve made a big investment in our merchandise program and that also does take up time when people are there because there’s a lot to see. [inaudible]

Erica Paolicelli: 19:31 absolutely. So I want to change the conversation just a little bit. This next question I always find, ah, so interesting and love to hear what my guests have to say. Um, but I find that we are at our creative best sometimes, um, when we are faced with some sort of challenge or adversity. And, um, I will know because it is the obvious. You and I are recording this in the middle of the for virus, uh, uh, pandemic. And so of course we are right in the middle of the challenge right now. Um, but I, I’m curious if, um, there is a challenge that you have faced. Feel free if it’s the one we’re facing right now, or just one in retrospect, but either way, I think we learned so much when we come through a challenge and some of the creative solutions we come up with.

Erica Paolicelli: 20:28 Um, and so I’m wondering if there’s one that you can think about and share with us some of those solutions that you’ve come up with. So it’s hard not to think of one or to think of one that’s [inaudible]. The coronavirus is just the one that’s on my, now I know. So I can talk to you a little bit about what we’ve done so far. Uh, we are in, uh, as we speak, we’re in a position where our business has been deemed an essential business because we’re a beverage manufacturer. So what that means for us is that we can continue [inaudible] Dennis as far as production goes. But with that being said, uh, the tasting rooms for tasting operations have been shut down because we are, uh, still essential. We can do curbside pickup and things like that. Um, none of that is really creative. I think it’s great and [inaudible] spend helpful.

Erica Paolicelli: 21:19 But when we started talking about what that would look like for us, we decided a couple of things. Um, we decided to really lean into our online, our online presence. [inaudible] that does, does it seem unique in itself or creative in itself. But, um, a lot of the wineries around the Lake, I will say don’t have a marketing team or a marketing person even to do that. And um, for us, we’ve decided to really lean in at this time while we have the time into some projects that we think will help us moving, you know, not even looking two weeks out, looking months out, um, if, whether the tasting room is back open or not. So we’ve got [inaudible] Ben getting really creative with what we’re going to be doing online to engage with our current customer, with our current, um, kind of fan. And I’m excited about those things and those conversations.

Erica Paolicelli: 22:11 For example, uh, we, so over winter, uh, we did a buyer’s guide for, for gifts and, um, we put out like 10 gift ideas for different types of shoppers and we made it into a blog post. We re created that blog post into a social platform, you know, whatever we were using, we created it into new media for that. And, uh, the content kind of was generated and reuse. So we were talking about reviving that concept and doing that more often, really getting into the blog side of the website. And so that we can give our readers more to kind of, I honestly think that [inaudible] with this pandemic, it’s going to be [inaudible] be the rebirth of the blog a little bit because people are looking to read things that aren’t, uh, pandemic related and not watch TV necessarily. They’re looking to see what, um, what else is out there on the internet.

Erica Paolicelli: 23:04 And so we’re using this time to get creative there. Um, the other thing that we did when we decided we were going to do curbside pickup is we decided we were gonna do our wine slushie to go. That was a game changer. So before when we just said, okay, come and pick up your wine, well what’s the reason we’re driving out to send a kolache to get our wine? They would just [inaudible] right? And so we decided let’s do the slushie to go. And um, I called the liquor authority and all of that and they said, yeah, sure you can do it as long as it’s in a bag. So, um, now we’re seeing 40, 50 [inaudible] a hundred on a Saturday pick up orders because they can get their wine slushie and bring it and drink it at home already premade. So that was kind of a creative thing that we were not able to do before.

Erica Paolicelli: 23:51 Um, and it has helped people come and pick up their product. If they’re coming out for wine slushie, they’re going to add a four pack of beer, they’re going to add, um, a bottle of wine, it leased to their order. Uh, we also have added a lot of new merchandise onto the web. So when you think winery, you don’t really necessarily think of it as shopping for a shirt or something unrelated to wine online. But the reality of it is, is we have that inventory. And so we all right creative with that a little bit. We have a light box at the winery and we’re doing some professional photography to get those items up online. And we are seeing that people are shopping them. Mmm. When we thought about, well, so we don’t want to just ask them to buy wine and beer. I mean, that’s helpful to us and to them in this moment.

Erica Paolicelli: 24:38 But what else can we think? What else do people want? How else can we help them? And, um, one thing we are going to be doing is rolling out some different kits, like a care kit that you could send to your mom or, you know, even thinking, what if, what if we’re all still kind of socially distance during Easter? Well, can we do to help people with their Easter celebration at home? And so, um, we’re thinking in that way. We do have, um, weekly marketing calls with everybody, even if they’re not in the marketing department. Yeah. I’ll say one other example and stop me if I’m taking too long. But I thought to myself, I’m getting all of these emails about the current state of every business I’ve ever given my email address to. And it’s like getting crazy. I’m not even reading them, just like going down and deleting them all.

Erica Paolicelli: 25:27 And so I decided, my partner Dave is, is uh, we’re staying separated to be responsible for the business. Um, and so he’s home. I live very close to the winery, so it makes sense for me to be there. And so I said to Dave, he wants to help. I said, I’m going to give you a list of our best customers and I want you to call them on the phone. Physically. Yeah. Call them, you know, and talk to them. And so he started doing that and, and it sounds so old school, but it’s working. He’s calling and saying, hi, I’m Dave. I’m the owner of three brothers. I want to thank you. I noticed you’re one of our best customers. How are you doing during this time? This is how we’re doing. And by the way, here’s a code for you to use for a special discount.

Erica Paolicelli: 26:10 If you decide that you want to support our business in these tough times. And yeah, that’s working a real conversation with people. That’s what they’re craving right now. And so although that’s not new, it is creative in 2020. Right? Absolutely. No, I think that was fantastic and I’m really glad you shared so much with us because, um, th that’s exactly what I mean. Even though you might think it’s not creative, it really is creative. Even that, that special touch one on one, you know, phone call that you’re doing, um, is a different way that you’re touching your customers, that you weren’t touching them before. Right. Given the circumstance, right. In the way you know what’s happening now. Um, and I, and I’m sure that, um, all of those ideas that you just shared with us are going to give our listeners, um, you know, so many ideas for themselves to think about and just different ways, uh, that they might approach their, their own businesses during this time.

Erica Paolicelli: 27:09 Um, I think it’s, it’s, it’s really great and that you’re able to, to think about what are we doing now that’s going to help us in two or three months, but then also what are our customers going to need in the short term? You know, and thinking about Easter being right around the corner. I think, um, you know, balancing that short term and longterm thinking is something that we’re all trying to do right now. And, and I think you’ve just demonstrated a really great way to a balance that and to think about it. Yeah. And the other thing we have right now is a huge gap opportunity to engage with our customers. And we are taking full advantage of that. So I said to, uh, there’s one person that does the kind of the beer marketing side of things at Steve’s son John. And then we have our marketing coordinator, Katherine, and then we have the whole team on the call.

Erica Paolicelli: 27:57 Whoever wants to join us to come up with creative ideas during this time. And I said last week, I don’t want you guys just to think about ways to sell. I want you guys to think about ways to entertain because what people need right now is entertainment. And so just yesterday as a great example, John decided he was going to do a corn team, T a M um, bracket with our brewer and they had a live Facebook. It was like six 30. It’s so funny. They went through a bunch of famous people from history and, and now, and they made a bracket with about, I want to say like 60 people. Okay. And him and the brewer go, you know, through these brackets and decide who they’d rather spend quarantine with. And then it whittles down to two people. And, uh, Doug Flutie one our brewer. I hadn’t, I didn’t know this about our brewer until yesterday when I watched this, but he’s a giant dog booty fan and he had all of these personal stories to sell Doug Flutie including his Jersey that he had on under his, uh, his work shirt.

Erica Paolicelli: 29:04 So it was, it was really nice way for our customer just to get to know our team a little bit more. Um, another good example of that is we usually do a birthday party that’s private for our staff, our full time staff when they, their birthday comes around, well, we just had a birthday and we can’t be together. And so we made a personalized video for that person and sent it to them. But then we also posted it to our Facebook. Okay. I thought to myself, this is making me feel really good right now. And so it probably will make someone else feel good and it did, it got great response. We’re not asking you from then for anything, right. We’re just entertaining them. So I think that a lot of it can be really easy just to say, please buy something from me. I can’t pay my bills right now.

Erica Paolicelli: 29:43 And that might be the truth, but that’s not going to, it’s not going to do it. You know, you really need to think about what they’re looking for. And right now people are looking to be entertained. So that’s gotta be part of the strategy I think. Absolutely. And I saw the video, the birthday video, and I thought that was awesome. We also celebrate our team birthdays and uh, we ended up doing a virtual, we don’t have as many employees as you do, but we ended up doing, uh, a zoom meeting with all of our team members on her birthday. That’s awesome. I love zoom. So love it. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, um, so I think that that’s, that’s just really great and having fun. I mean, not only is that good entertainment for your customers, but it’s also allowing your team and your employees to kind of relax and feel a little lightheartedness for awhile as well.

Erica Paolicelli: 30:35 I mean, it is such a heavy time right now. So I think that those are great, uh, examples. And that’s another [inaudible] good point. One thing that I’m really leaning into is the communication with the team. And so to me that’s a little bit also about creativity and marketing. And so, so, you know, sadly we have [inaudible] big portion of our team that got laid off right now. And um, that was the first time we’ve ever had to do anything like that. Me personally, it was my first experience with that and it was really, really hard. And after the first day of that, I said, well, what can I do for them? And so [inaudible] you know, myself, my partners, we’ve been calling them almost daily for a check in, but we’ve also kind of ask what, what can they do to help? They want help, right? And so how can they be helpful?

Erica Paolicelli: 31:21 How can they be involved still in the business? And so that’s also, it’s an internal kind of marketing strategy, but it’s something that we’re really thinking a lot about right now. And with the unknown of how long this is going to last for. It’s also really important because we pride ourselves on our talented a staff and our, especially our talented management team. And so we want to make sure that they’re feeling the, they’re filling is involved in, in the know and like we’re communicating with them and they don’t have to wonder, you know, I told them as soon as we know what’s going on, we’ll let, you’ll be our first call. And so we’re trying to think of ways to keep them involved at birthday video. All of them were home and laid off during it. So that’s something that they came up with. And I think it’s awesome.

Erica Paolicelli: 32:09 Yeah, that’s, that’s such a great point too, because you’re, hopefully you’re going to be bringing them all back, right. As soon as we come out of this, you want to keep that their spirits up and keep them involved. And not only that, but you have a special place in your heart for them. They’ve worked for you and, um, you want to stay connected. So I think that’s just so important. Um, and, and that was something quickly that we realized, and I realized in my own company is there so many questions on the minds of our employees. Um, and in my case, we haven’t laid anyone off just yet, but Mmm. They’re wondering, am I going to be laid off? Right. So, you know, so I, and our at our weekly team meetings, which have now becoming more frequently than just weekly, um, you know, I’m letting them know the things that I’m working on, uh, and, and where we are with our, with our client workload and, and with [inaudible] expense reduction.

Erica Paolicelli: 33:03 Mmm. Even though I don’t have the answers yet, I’m trying to keep them in the loop just to give him a little bit of Mmm. You know, ease of mind. So I think that’s great. Well, Erica, this has been a wonderful conversation so far and I, and I knew it would be, um, I want to make sure that we touch on collaboration because I think collaboration is just so important to the success of, um, anyone in any industry, but especially in the hospitality, wine, um, tourism industry. And so I’m wondering if you have some examples of collaborations, um, that have really [inaudible] you and in particular, I like to talk about this whole idea of coopertition because I always find it so interesting how, um, perceived competitors really do come together, work together to create something bigger, um, you know, then they can do on their own.

Erica Paolicelli: 33:59 And I’m curious if you have any examples of that that you could share. Sure. So the first thing that came to my mind when I read this question was the Seneca Lake wine trail. And, uh, that’s [inaudible] a perfect example. So as winery is around Seneca Lake, we’re competitive, we’re competitors of each other. And we want, you know, if someone comes to the region and they’re, they’re here on vacation, they likely have a set amount of money that they’re going to leave here in the region. Right? They decide, all right, I’m gonna spend this much on wine. And maybe it’s not so specific, but we all know when we go on vacation, we say, all right, we have this chunk of money that we are, we’re going to have freedom with. And so we’re all competing for what comes out of the wallet at the end of this at the end of the day.

Erica Paolicelli: 34:41 But in that same idea, w [inaudible], nobody’s coming to the finger lakes if there aren’t a lot of wineries to visit. One winery doesn’t draw anyone to our region. And so, um, we cooperate with each other through the Seneca Lake wine trail on our trail through other finger lakes tourism Alliance and finger lakes wine Alliance and the New York wine and grape foundation to promote what, what we have here in the finger lakes. And that is best example of at least a good example of how it’s working in the return on that investment is the Seneca Lake wine trail association and the New York wine grape foundation. Those two are my top picks for who’s doing a really good job right now, uh, helping the entire industry, uh, politically, but also with tourism and visitation. So that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. Um, on a smaller, we do collaborate, um, with, with other wineries all the time.

Erica Paolicelli: 35:43 So we have a huge investment at the winery with a canning line that we made for the brewery. And part of that, it’s that canning line should be running as often as possible to get our return on our investment. And [inaudible] we don’t produce enough in this moment too, have that happen. So we have a full time person that just, his whole job is to operate that line. And so we, Mmm, we can do co-packing for people. That’s a win win. So Fox, Ron, I’ll use them as an example. They wanted to get into the wine in a can game and they don’t have a canning line. And so they said to us through our relationship and trust, they said, can you guys do it for us? And so we did. They paid us. That’s another good example of a way to kind of collaborate. Um, and so those things, they’re everywhere in our region.

Erica Paolicelli: 36:31 And um, another good example is there’s a, there’s a tight knit community in the finger lakes wine industry, but there’s been a couple instances where collaboration has been key in. One just happened this last summer. It seems like years ago right now, but it was called FL excursion and that wasn’t international wrestling show that was held right here in Geneva. And to make that happen, there was collaboration between, I want to say 50 different wineries. Um, there, it was set up as a kind of a community wine community led board and we all took our piece and we made it work and we work together. Even though when those people were here, we wanted them to see our wineries individually as well. But we really wanted to showcase us as a region. And so that is a huge success story. And it was our first time doing it.

Erica Paolicelli: 37:27 It was, it was my first time working with some of these people because although the finger lakes is a small region, it’s kind of, you know, it’s for me to be working with someone who’s over on Cuka Lake and then someone over on Cayuga Lake and at the other end of Seneca Lake, um, just distance wise, that’s kind of a, it’s a big distance. You don’t really run into those people at Wagman’s. Right. And so, um, that was a unique collaboration. And then finally we have another, I’m on another board that puts on what we call the Rosie soiree every year in downtown Geneva and [inaudible] that just came from five wineries, myself from three brothers, uh, Belinda Venuti from KNAP winery. Kelby Russell from red knew Katie Roisin who when we started was at Hoss Mer. And now is that lamb or landing Stephanie Mira who was on, uh, Linden street at, uh, microclimate, the wine bar, but is now it has Marcel.

Erica Paolicelli: 38:22 There’s been a little bit of hopping around. Uh, and Heidi, Wes ball is actually, she’s, she’s a, she’s an adopted member of the wine community. She’s actually in banking, but, um, she, she’s our so it makes sense. Uh, we started this event together on Linden street just to showcase Rosie of the finger lakes. And again, individually, yes, we do want to showcase our own Rosa. We are competitors when it comes to who’s Rosie makes it to the shelf and who’s Rosie makes it into the customer’s bag. But alone, we’re not as powerful. And so [inaudible] started seven, six or seven years ago with this event on Linden street. And I will tell you, we stop it at 850 tickets. It’s sold out every year and it’s a completely volunteer run event. We donate pro all proceeds to local charities. We just on our five year anniversary calculated what we had donated and we were up past $30,000 that had been donated.

Erica Paolicelli: 39:22 And so, um, and that’s not unrelated to the wine industry, local organizations in our community in Geneva. And that came out of collaboration and um, it’s a lot of work but together we can do it. And the other thing I will say is that through all of these things I’m mentioning is that I’ve been able to network with people in my community and from that has also come other things that have helped my business. So a good example of that is, Mmm, Knapp owns a grape harvester and we have them come in mechanically harvest our grapes on our farm. And I feel very comfortable calling up Linda and saying, Hey Ken, what’s going on with grape harvester? We have this situation over here, can we get the harvester? It’s an open communication and we have a relationship, but we have the relationship and she’s actually one of my very good friends now because of the Rosie soiree.

Erica Paolicelli: 40:13 Um, but we have a relationship because of that, that event that we did together. And then when it came time to do [inaudible] FL excursion, um, they reached out to, to our Rosie soiree team in particular because Kelby was and on the ground floor of that event and said, Hey, I have this group of people that are already doing this and they’re really good at it, so let’s get them in. And so that’s kind of like a really good example of how it can even overlap within our industry, you know? Absolutely. And, um, overlap and kind of like snowball, if you will. You know, you start with one thing and then you, you start that network and you start talking and, Oh, here’s this next thing that we can work on together. I love how that Rose a soiree is I’m also a fundraiser, you know, and, and reaches beyond, you know, your own industry and really is a give back to the community as a whole.

Erica Paolicelli: 41:06 Um, I think that’s what can happen when you really get smart about these collaborations and the work that you did together. I think that’s just a really awesome example of where collaboration can take us and why it’s just so important. Right. I could, I mean, I could really go on and on, but my whole career really is bill on collaboration. I am very involved with the New York wine industry [inaudible] association. I currently am the chair of that board and that’s a whole nother, that’s a whole other example of collaboration on a different level because we’re a political organization. And so in New York state, the wine industry actually is a huge economic driver. And without our organization, there would be no voice to our wine industry in New York state. And so that board is another volunteer on board that is of all winery owners. And so, um, all of us are working collectively to have a unified voice.

Erica Paolicelli: 42:00 And we’d go down to Albany. We do lobbying down there. We do a big event in Albany. Uh, we will be going, well, I don’t know if we will and be now, but we were going to be going downstate in may for a sustainability conference. And we work collaboratively with the New York wine and grape foundation because they’re unable to do any kind of lobbying within their organization. And so it’s another example of, yes, we are competitors, but we will, we’re really not. I mean, it’s the more the merrier. And the finger lakes is a region is built on collaboration. It’s like the perfect example of a model that works. Absolutely. And I think that is a perfect way to wrap up this whole conversation. Um, this has been just really, really great and I so appreciate you being so open, um, with your story and then, you know, with what you’re doing through this, uh, coronavirus pandemics that were in the middle of, and then, you know, all of those examples of collaboration.

Erica Paolicelli: 42:59 Um, this has been a really wonderful conversation and I’m so thankful I have for you, for joining us, Eric, for having me. Thanks for doing it because honestly, the podcast that you’re putting out is really, really valuable to everyone in the tourism industry, but our industry too. You have a lot of listeners who are benefiting from the conversations that you’re, that you’re having. So thank you. Oh, I appreciate that. Thank you so much. And Erica, can you just let our listeners know where they might find you? Should they want to connect with you or, or do it to go order of a wine slushie? Absolutely. So, uh, I don’t know, aye. Honestly, don’t know how much longer that’ll last. But, uh, everything was the most UpToDate information can be found on our website. Three brothers, you can reach out to me by email at [inaudible], Erica, E, R, I, C, a at the number three, not the word brothers,

Erica Paolicelli: 43:51 And I’m most active if you want to know more about me personally, I do a lot of business and kind of, I’m very into fitness. That’s my passion. Um, and eating healthy. Uh, so if you want to know more about me or you just want to connect, I’m on Instagram, uh, at L X. Erica. Awesome. Well, thank you so much and we’ll, we’ll look forward to connecting with you again. All right, thanks. Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our weekly. I see. Why am I in case you missed it? The newsletter each week, along with our podcast episode, we share an article written by one of the break the ice media members about the travel and tourism industry. Our articles mirror the mix of industry segments and topics similar to this podcast. Join our newsletter [inaudible] D O T L two six six eight six six or visit break the ice forward slash

Nicole Mahoney: 44:50 it’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

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