Food & Drink

Thomas Crowley

Thomas Crowley is a sales consultant for Cœur Wine Co., an import/distribution company specializing in organic/biodynamic/sustainable wines and spirits. He worked as the wine buyer for the Bar Veloce empire, and has 16 years of experience in the NYC bar/restaurant industry. His hobbies include resolving ethical dilemmas, investigating conspiracy theories, collecting aphorisms, developing and implementing life hacks, and reveling in cold, rainy weather.

Where were you working prior to the shutdown, and how was that impacted by the pandemic?

I work as a sales consultant for an import/distribution company called Cœur Wine Co., specializing in organic/biodynamic/sustainable wines and spirits. Restaurant and bar sales account for roughly 50% of our business, so of course the shutdown has had a significant impact on wine distribution, but retail sales — which are up about 30% — are keeping most of us afloat. The first week of the quarantine — before wine shops were deemed “essential” — was bonkers; the wine stores were doing better business than they did on New Year’s Eve. Many of them were even breaking sales records. But once it became clear that people didn’t have to do all their wine and booze shopping for the year at once, sales slowed.

...restaurant people are a particularly scrappy and resourceful subset of New Yorkers. And I’m willing and even expecting to be pleasantly surprised by the landscape, come 2021"


How do you think this will impact your industry?

I think everyone’s biggest fear is that once the quarantine is over, many beloved bars and restaurants will not reopen (in fact, we already know for a fact that some won’t), or that a sort of partial reopening with limitations on capacity, etc. won’t be enough to sustain those that do. And then there’s the possibility that reopening too soon could exacerbate a second wave of infections — it could be a “penny wise, pound foolish” situation. There’s a lot to worry about...and if I didn’t meditate, I’m sure I’d feel like I was staring into the abyss.That said, restaurant people are a particularly scrappy and resourceful subset of New Yorkers. And I’m willing and even expecting to be pleasantly surprised by the landscape, come 2021. "If you can imagine the worst-case scenario, you can just as well imagine the best-case scenario," I have to remind myself.

Do you think Restaurateurs will stay in New York, or go somewhere that may be easier for them to do business?

I already know of a few people who work in different roles, from restaurateurs to wine directors who had to skip town and aren't coming back. But I think the majority of them will want to stay in New york. I didn't come to this city to work in a particular field, I moved here just because I always wanted to live here, and I think even after COVID-19 people will still want to live and be a part of New York.

Photo by Rose Callahan

...contrary to what I always suspected, I don't have to rely on my job to give my life structure."

What are you doing to do adapt to these changes?

Eric Clemons, the owner of Coeur, is a very sharp guy — always proactive and thinking ahead. So, when the quarantine began, he'd already arranged for reduced pricing on a number of key items, and lowered our delivery minimum to simplify things for the wine stores we work with, who themselves have had to implement/adapt to a completely new routine/system in terms of selling wine to NYC consumers. Also, under normal circumstances, the bulk of our time would be spent tasting wine with buyers at restaurants and wine shops — new vintages of wines they know, new items we’ve added to the portfolio, ideas for filling gaps in their inventory, etc. Because we can’t do that now, we’ve seen increased trust between buyers and sales reps — they're taking our word for it much more where new vintages and products are concerned, and with satisfactory results, it seems. We’ve been shipping a few samples here and there with deliveries, and truthfully, I’ve dropped off some samples here and there (the bottle’s sterilized, mind you).

Personally, I'm relieved; contrary to what I always suspected, I don't have to rely on my job to give my life structure. I'm still getting up there reasonable hour, bathing and dressing, and focusing a good amount of time on working from home. Looking at history, I'm guessing we will never experience anything like this again, and with that in mind, being shut down is really a special time, especially in a place like New York, and I'm thinking how I can get the most out of this experience while it lasts. I'm pretty sure I'm going to feel nostalgic about this time when it's over, I'd like to hangout in this space for a little bit longer...

Photo By Rose Callahan

What do you think the post COVID wine experience will look like?

I really hope it doesn’t look like a medical clinic or a closed-plan office space — cubicles, face masks, etc. I would love to see that from the MTA, but not from bars and restaurants. I’m going to remain optimistic and say that it will look much like it did before COVID-19 struck. Not out of flagrant disregard for the evidence of my eyes and ears at the moment, but because I trust that a solution will likely emerge from someplace other than a reorganization or re-imagination of the 21st-century dining and drinking model to which we’ve become accustomed.

Eating and drinking is such a big part in a New Yorkers life. Not just for foodies, we all have limited space so it's more essential to occasionally eat and drink elsewhere. I can't imagine that not being apart of our lives in the future.

Something as seemingly small or insignificant as a word or a question can completely change the way someone experiences anything.

What opportunities or lessons do you think will emerge from this?

The wisest thing I’ve heard anyone say since this whole thing began was from Jack Kornfield, on a podcast. He said, “Let us see if we can use this so it's not happening to us, but it's happening for us. And that reverses the frame of it. I don't mean this is easy.” That’s not merely good advice for getting through a pandemic — that’s good advice for life in general. Something as seemingly small or insignificant as a word or a question can completely change the way someone experiences anything.

Silver linings to this crisis have been numerous. On a personal level, I’ve read more the past two months than I have in the past two years, I’m more skilled in the kitchen than I’ve ever been before, I’m completing projects that have been nagging at me for years, I’m in better and more regular touch with people I care about, I feel well-rested, I’ve been taking long, luxurious, lavender Epsom salt baths…the list goes on.


On a global scale, we’ve seen an improvement in air and water quality, wildlife is in slightly better shape in certain places, traffic is minimal…this list goes on too. And I’m encouraged by the swell of appreciation for grocery store workers, delivery people, nurses, doctors, etc. I hope it sticks.