Fri 28 Nov 2014

The Society’s Cellar Showroom – 25 Years On


Fine wine manager Shaun Kiernan was the original manager of The Society’s Cellar Showroom in Stevenage when it opened 25 years ago. We asked him to share some of his memories following a celebration of its anniversary last week

The Wine Society Cellar Showroom

The grand opening, 1989…

It is truly amazing to think that it is now 25 years since Lisa Fletcher and I opened The Wine Society showroom in November of 1989. It was, as you can imagine, a full-on couple of months in the lead up to our first Christmas serving members and getting used to our new environment; something that had been in the planning for a full 12 months prior to this.

The Wine Society Showroom

…and The Showroom today

Members embraced their new facility enthusiastically, I recall, and we were busy from the off with systems not quite bedded in and our warehouse not used to having to supply a new shop with a just- in-time stock feed as well as double the number of members’ daily orders.

With only the two of us to start with we quickly realised we had underestimated just how popular the new Showroom would be and we immediately had to call for back up in the form of Samantha Vooght, who along with Lisa has been there ever since.

The Wine Society Showroom

Emma Dorahy and Lisa Fletcher reminiscing at The Cellar Showroom 25th anniversary celebration

Because we hadn’t had a facility like this before there had been no outlet for selling the small quantities of wines that necessarily collect over the years. One of the things that gave me enormous pleasure was trawling through the hundreds of pallets (named ‘RB’ pallets after Ron Bracey who headed the warehouse at the time) of wines we had at our fingertips for sale in the Showroom. Small stocks of hundreds of different wines which had been untouched for years and that I had to log, price and make available for sale to delighted members. Some of these were very old and very fine indeed.

Another of my abiding memories in the first year was in the lead up to Christmas when our lift broke down and so we were no longer able to get stock or members’ orders from the warehouse. I could barely watch while staff members hauled tottering pallet after pallet down Norton Green Road while queues of members formed very quickly in the Showroom waiting for their Christmas cases.

The Wine Society showroom tasting

A special Showroom tasting gave us the opportunity to celebrate with a number of familiar faces

It was very nice the other night, when we celebrated the first 25 years, to see so many familiar faces from when I first opened the Showroom with Lisa and to know that they still continue to visit – testament in no small part to Lisa and her team who have succeeded in improving and developing the Showroom over the years and welcome the members just as enthusiastically today as they did then.

It was Lisa’s idea to contact growers that have had a long relationship with The Society to contribute wines for a special tasting. Along with the wines, many chose to send their good wishes and messages of support for The Society which we thought members would like to read. There’s a selection below and more on our website here.

Here’s to the next 25 years and beyond!

Shaun Kiernan
Fine Wine Manager

Alister Purbrick from Tahbilk wines

Alister Purbrick from Tahbilk

• ‘Three generations of the Purbrick family have been involved in nurturing this relationship with The Wine Society’s management team and staff and, in these modern times when it seems that few companies have a desire to build strong strategic business relationships, it’s refreshing that The Wine Society shares this cultural value with Tahbilk and also appreciates, nurtures and values long-term mutually beneficial relationships.’
Alister Purbrick, Tahbilk Wines

• ‘I love to work with The Wine Society – a very honourable company with wonderful people sharing the passion for wine.’
Annegret Reh Gartner, von Kesselstatt

• ‘There are few companies I would describe as a jewel in the crown of distribution. The Wine Society is certainly one that stands out. The professionalism and knowledge of the teams at all levels is second to none.’
Charlie Sichel, Maison Sichel

• ‘We are immensely proud of our century-long association with The Wine Society. We have always found kindred spirits in the people who work at The Society; people who love wine and the regions from where they come from and who really understand what goes into making great wines, and we appreciate their profound knowledge of what we do.’
Paul Symington, Symington Family Estates

• ‘Nowadays, Marcel Orford-Williams and The Wine Society are probably the best Alsace ambassadors in the English speaking world. I have also to insist on the quality of our relationship, which is much more than just business, it includes comprehension, respect, loyalty and much pleasure.’
Marc Beyer, Maison Léon Beyer

• ‘The Wine Society have supported me and my wines with faithful regularity and I can honestly say that I have been a grateful and convinced promoter of The Society. I am frequently asked by friends and even chance acquaintances ‘where can we buy your wines?’ and I have no hesitation in suggesting the The Wine Society.’
Anthony Barton, Langoa and Léoville Barton

Categories : Miscellaneous


  1. Peter Warby says:

    The praise for the Society is well deserved. Service, expertise and value are second to none. During the 50 years I have been a member, the Society has steadily improved to become what it is today, a venerable institution.

  2. Angus Pelham Burn says:

    Helpful, efficient, quality, well priced – in fact it is an unbeatable organisation which I use a great deal for everyday to special wines which they keep for me in Reserves.

  3. Jane Carr says:

    The tributes are very well-deserved, and a pleasure to read as they are clearly written by the producers and not the PRs!

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