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Sunday Strategist: How a Brooklyn Wine Shop Bucked the Covid Odds

Breaking down the boldest bets in business

Wine Pouring into Glass
Photographer: debyaho/iStockphoto

Leon & Son had all the markings of a Covid casualty. The tiny Brooklyn wine shop is full of relatively esoteric, small-batch bottles that are best sold with a back-story. Since opening five years ago, its business development plan was an ever-present box of Milk Bones behind the counter. “Every dog in the neighborhood stops at our door,” says owner Chris Leon. (That’s how Woodrow and I became regulars).

Small businesses employ nearly half of the nation’s private sector and more than half of these outfits predict failure within six months of the new normal. The federal Paycheck Protection Program is a Byzantine shambles. And yet, Leon & Son is thriving, albeit with doors closed. Revenue is up, and the volume is akin to a Friday or Saturday a few months ago, though costs have ballooned as well. To be sure, Leon has a propitious product. Selling wine in the midst of a coronavirus lockdown is a bit like hawking bug spray on Zika island.