Small Business Spotlight: How a Bed-Stuy Wine Shop Became the Neighborhood Everything Store
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A small wine shop in Bedford-Stuyvesant is tailor-made for the Brooklyn community it serves.
Happy Cork opened its doors in March 2019 – a year before the coronavirus spread in New York City and changed its business model. Fast-forward two years and Sunshine Foss is displaying her sunny disposition on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
Foss told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso she rallied her community amid the business shutdowns and offered to sell their products on the new website she designed herself. She was in survival mode.
“When we opened, it was literally us trying to get people in the doors,” she said.
An average of just 10 people a day patronized Happy Cork for the first few months of the pandemic.
Liquor stores were deemed an essential business, so Foss used that designation to support minority and women-owned businesses in Brooklyn.
“We’re like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have you in the store. We’re essential. You’re going to be essential,'” she recalled saying. “A lot of businesses have been able to grow even just because of that.”
Her wine shop became a destination both in-person and online. She currently boasts dozens of locally sourced selections from women and Black owners who have struggled to stay open, sharing the story of each product she sells.
“We want to make sure that you get that Happy Cork experience,” Foss said.
“If you’re not coming into the store, we’re going to send you an experience in the box.”
Along with wine orders, Happy Cork ships coasters, glassware, tea, chocolate, keychains and merchandise from local artisans and vendors.
“Now, with opening up delivery and shipping and a beautiful online presence, we have definitely been able to kind of capture a lot more of an audience so business has been great,” she said.
But, Foss credits her vendors and local business owners for what she has learned along the way. She channels her Bed-Stuy community in brand and spirit.
The Happy Cork website reads, “There’s a difference between a place where you are welcome and a place that was built with you in mind.”
Foss told Connolly and Carousso she wanted to make her shop less “intimidating” from other urban wine shops that featured bullet proof glass where she places flowers.
“It is really a space that was built with the community in mind,” she said.
“It was built for the community to come in (and) feel welcome.”
See how Happy Cork is supporting other Brooklyn businesses on the Small Business Spotlight video above.