Bubba Rosenthal loves his job.
“I love this industry, I love talking to my customers, and I have a lot of fun,” he shares.
Rosenthal started tending bar when he was 18 at O’Leary’s on River Street, which is now Spanky’s. After bartending several other spots and going into distributorship, Rosenthal opened up Habersham Beverage 21 years ago.
“One thing we offer more than anywhere else is customer service,” says Rosenthal. “All my stores are clean, there’s friendly people in here, and we have a lot of fun.”
Why is it so fun to work at Habersham Beverage? One reason might be the tasting panel that Rosenthal and the employees are part of.
“What we’re doing when we’re buying stuff is our purveyors provide us these wines and they have to give us a rating. If a wine doesn’t have a point rating, then we’ll rate it ourselves,” Rosenthal explains. “Unless it gets good points or is of value, we won’t put it in stock. We refuse probably 80 percent of the wines we look at it. It’s not because they’re not good—it’s because they don’t fit in the niche they should. You can have too many 99-point cabernets. A lot of the wines come from the restaurants, where a lot of our wonderful customers go in and come say, ‘Bubba, you gotta try this.’”
The key to being the best wine shop, Rosenthal says, is giving people a choice.
“When you go to the grocery store, how many apples do you get to choose from? We’re the wine store of a grocery store,” he explains. “We have to be different from everyone else. I have several employees who are very experienced—they’ve worked in restaurants and for wholesalers, I have sommeliers and people who are certified to sell wines. We pay more than the average liquor store to have this experience. They know what they’re talking about.”
Recently, the Habersham Village store received an upgrade that took it to the next level.
“We almost doubled the size, and we added 100% new equipment, new everything. We went first class with it,” Rosenthal says. “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done over there and everyone who put hard work into it.” — Rachael Flora
Runner-up, Local Wine Shop: Savannah Wine Cellar