On Capitol Hill, just about everyone’s favorite wine shop is Schneider’s. It’s a neighborhood institution – the store opened its doors more than 61 years ago – and it offers more than 12,000 different wine selections, ranging in price from $1.99 (for a 2003 Outback Chardonnay) to $5,000 (for a 1900 Chateau Lafite).
And the staff is both friendly and helpful. As Sharee Lawler explained on THIH last year, “nothing beats the experienced sales staff that can offer a spot-on recommendation AND track it down for you in short order.”
If you’ve visited Schneider’s in the last few months, you might have met Josh Genderson, who recently moved back to DC from New York. If that last name sounds familiar, that’s because Rick and Jon Genderson, Josh’s father and uncle, respectively, own the store.
Josh’s path back to Schneider’s seems both surprising and predictable. Surprising because he didn’t even appreciate wine until after he moved away from home and seemed determined, as a young professional, to pursue a career in entertainment – yet predictable because, well, it is the family business.
When Josh graduated college at the University of Maryland, wine was the last thing on his mind. So he went off to Los Angeles, where he landed a job at Endeavor, the Beverly Hills talent agency founded by Ari Emanuel. (For those who don’t follow this stuff, Ari Emanuel is the brother of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And he’s the inspiration for Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage.)
While in California, Josh lived in Venice Beach and had a blast. But after just one year, he realized that LA wasn’t a good fit – so he packed his bags and headed to New York City, as he had secured a job with The Bowery Presents (the company behind the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and several other music venues). Josh worked his way up with the company, eventually running ticketing operations.
While in New York, Josh started developing a passion for good food and great wine. Even though Josh grew up surrounded by wine – his dad always opened a bottle of something special with dinner – it wasn’t until Josh lived on his own that he really started appreciating it. So when he met a wine importer in New York with an open position, Josh decided it was time for year another change.
So he jumped in head first, taking classes at the International Wine Center, meeting distributors, traveling to wineries in Spain and Portugal, and learning everything he could about the importing business. He loved his job – and realized how much he wanted wine to be a part of his career.
Just a couple of years later, a position opened up at Schneider’s and his father and uncle invited him back to DC. Josh was a bit hesitant – when you come back home to work in your family’s business, there’s no going back – but he went for it. And he’s thrilled with the decision.
For starters, his quality of life has improved dramatically. Rather than New York City rush hour traffic, he can walk to work. And he loves his job.
Since moving to DC in August, Josh has tried just about every position at Schneider’s. The morning we met for breakfast (atTed’s Bulletin, in case you’re wondering), he planned on spending most of the day at the Schneider’s warehouse, as there was wine to unload and sort.
He thinks it’ll take at least a year to understand every position – and that’s his goal; to know what every employee does at Schneider’s. So you’ll see him in the shop pricing bottles. You’ll find him in the office, corresponding with overseas wineries (Schneider’s is also an importer), talking with U.S. distributors, and placing and fulfilling orders. And most nights, you’ll see him on the floor talking to customers.
In 2011, Josh’s top priority is modernizing Schneider’s Internet profile. Even though Schneider’s is internationally renowned for its selection, its website looks like it was built in the 1990s. Josh would like Schneider’s to have a website that’s as powerful as California wine merchant K&L Wines. And he’d like a social media presence.
The goal of a more pronounced web presence, though, is to drive people to the shop.
“We’re very much a neighborhood store,” Josh explained. “That’s why I need to know the customers. Good customer service is rare these days, but people really appreciate it.”
This is especially true with something as confusing as wine.
If you’re wondering about Josh’s own palate, his wine region is Burgundy, and his grape is Pinot Noir. Want purchasing advice? One of Josh’s favorite producers in Burgundy is an American – Blair Pethel – who moved to France from Washington in 2003 to launch “Domaine Dublere” and pursue his passion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Josh loves the wine from Domaine Dublere because it has a sense of place. “Wine is an agricultural drink,” he explained, “It’s just grapes grown in a vineyard.” And that’s what Josh is looking for in a bottle.