Business owner and entrepreneur Michelle Trone, who is seeking to open a Total Wine & More store in Flushing, is committed to partnering with the local community while coinciding with mom-and-pop businesses.
Trone, 31, is the sole owner of MCT New York Fine Wines & Spirits LLC, who has applied for a wine and liquor license at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway, the former site of Toys ‘R’ Us that has been vacant for almost two years.
“This will be my first foray into owning my own business,” Trone said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in New York for work and for fun and Queens always struck me as a great neighborhood, very diverse, growing and an interesting place, where I thought having a store with so many options could really add to what’s available. There’s nothing like it in Queens.”
MCT New York Fine Wines & Spirits LLC is a separate entity from all other stores that operate under the trade name Total Wine & More — the first and only license that Trone seeks to hold. While Trone has received a generous amount of support for the store opening in Queens, which will be solely operated by her under the name Total Wine & More, she is also facing opposition from local business owners who fear losing their store, jobs and customers.
However, Trone believes they can co-exist together, she said.
“It’s a different business model. My store will be the kind of place where customers will come three to six times a year to stock up for an occasion, parties, holidays or an event,” Trone said. “For a local Friday night, where they just want to pick up a bottle of wine, they’ll still go to their local mom-and-pop. Whenever a Whole Foods or grocery opens up, the local bodega doesn’t go out of business; they’re for different uses.”
Trone added, “I believe the community in Queens needs both of these types of stores. There is also, historically, looking at other Total Wines before and after they open, the number of stores around it do not go out of business. People aren’t going to drive further to buy one bottle of Chardonnay, but they’ll probably drive further away for five cases.”
Trone plans to open two stores side by side — one licensed to sell wine and spirits (9,000-plus and 4,500-plus liquor items) and the other to sell beer and New York state food products (1,400-plus New York state wines, 350-plus New York state spirits and 50-plus New York state ciders) — to offer customers a convenient experience.
“We’ll have New York cheeses, apples, delis and also convenient accessories such as a wine opener and napkins,” Trone said. “Most liquor stores in Queens are just selling liquor and wine, you gotta go somewhere else for your beer, or if you’re getting beer they don’t have a license to sell liquor … I wanted to have both of those in one place for customers.”
The store will be equipped with wi-fi, wine/spirits educational content on flat screens, and wide aisles. Additionally, there will be 461 parking spots, including 280 directly in front of the store. There will be a focus on exceptional customer service and education to help consumers make decision and plan their dinners and events.
“It’ll look like a Total Wine and similar commitment to service, but in other ways it’ll be different,” Trone said. “There will be a huge classroom with free tastings every day and customer classes led by wine experts on cabernet and other things.”
When the classroom is not being used by the store team for training and customer education classes, it will be available as a meeting space, free of charge, to local nonprofits, community and business groups.
Trone is already planning to donate a portion of the store’s proceeds from opening week to a local nonprofit. She is committed to working closely with community and business leaders to support local causes and charitable efforts.
The wine and spirits store is expected to bring jobs to Queens with approximately 175 team members, where 75 percent will be full-time, earning high wages plus full benefits (health care, 401K, partner benefits, short- and long-term disability) Trone said. They also plan to hire returning citizens, such as individuals who have a criminal record and are searching for jobs.
With the support of several Queens politicians and local organizations and receiving more than 200 signatures from individuals, Trone is hopeful that the liquor license will be approved to open the wine and spirits store in Flushing.
“I’ve always wanted to open up my own store, it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Trone said. “This will give the people of Queens something they don’t currently have from the assortment, education, selection, and the fact that I will be partnering with the community through charitable organizations. I think overall, it will be a benefit to the Queens community.”