Career Girls: Take Fountain... to Venokado
I’ve always had a secret fantasy to open my own store or café. Perhaps it was all those Cheers episodes as a kid, but the idea of having a storefront where friends could gather and I could be social all day long just sounded like the most amazing idea.
Three friends of mine have actually made that dream a reality with their new venture, Venokado, which phonetically spells wine (Vino) and gift (cadeau) in Italian and French. Tucked along LA’s famous Fountain Avenue, the combination gift and wine shop offers something for everyone on your list. The partners include Susan and Molly Brink, who are gorgeous sisters and Tracy Hoff, Molly’s lovely wife. Molly and Tracy recently had Oscar -- pictured below with the girls -- who doubles as the store mascot.
from left to right Tracy, baby Oscar, Molly, Susan
Open just seven months, Venokado has already been profiled on Daily Candy and WWD. I stopped into the shop to get a first hand look at the goods and talk to the girls. Susan and Molly do the gift buying and Tracy and Susan do the wine buying. Tracy also does bigger picture tasks, like overseeing construction and managing the property. Although after talking to them, they each clearly have their hands in it all.
Below is a recap of our conversation.
Why the gift giving biz?
M: Maxine Gifts was a company that Susan and I started in 2001. With all the studios and post-production companies in LA, there was an untapped need in the market for customized quality gift baskets. We saw an abundance of baskets filled only with cheese and crackers and thought people would like to get fun, usable objects. We also consistently got requests for wine, but you can’t put wine in gifts unless you’re a brick and mortar store.
S: We were looking to open the retail component to expand the business. We have such great objects that we wanted people to be able to browse and buys single items instead of just assembling the gift baskets. This space seemed to magically present itself, offering both an ideal location, a space zoned for general use --merchandise and beer and wine -- and we were sold!
How did wine enter the equation?
S: I worked as a manager at AOC (very swanky LA wine bar) under Caroline Stein’s tutelage. Learning about wine infiltrated my system like a virus –- in a good way. I wanted to know more, so I went to school at the International Sommelier Guild, got certified, then it snowballed into various gigs. I have done the wine lists for various restaurants including Dominick’s in West Hollywood, Little Dom’s in Silverlake, Soho House and most recently Chiconne’s in New York.
M: Tracy --an accomplished film editor-- has always been a wine collector and afficionado. She also knows a lot about Italy, where they source many of their labels. She had an interest in building and running a retail business.
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