Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Maria Cecilia Valencia of Solera, Shrine to Wine
Written interviews with local business owners have been organized and written by members of the RVMS Marketing Committee. We will continue to share these interviews frequently as part of a series to share how best to support local businesses in Roslindale during this challenging time.
Solera – A Shrine To Wine, whose tagline is “Where Good Wines and Craft Beers Meet Expertise” first opened on Corinth Street back in 2000. Owner Maria Cecilia Valencia, originally from Colombia, South America, having recently purchased a home in the neighborhood, saw the revitalization of Roslindale Village as an opportunity to launch her dream to, in her words, “create a place for wine lovers where they could come in, feel comfortable browsing around and asking questions, and give people the opportunity to purchase quality wines without breaking the bank”. After operating for 11 years on Corinth Street, Solera moved around the corner to its current location at 16 Birch Street.
Winner of several awards, including Boston Magazine’s 2016 “Best of Boston” distinction and the Boston Phoenix’s 2001 “Best Mini-Wine Boutique in Boston”, Solera boasts nearly 500 selections of wine from all over the world along with a smaller selection of local craft beers. Maria prides herself on the high level of expertise, wine education, and personalized customer service which has earned her staff accolades from the presses and the designation of “well versed grape talkers”.
Now celebrating its 20th Anniversary, Solera finds itself at a crossroads. Maria has not escaped the devastation that COVID-19 has wrought on small businesses everywhere. While Solera is exempt from the mandated State closure of “non-essential” businesses, Maria has been forced to cut back on her hours and limit the number of people allowed inside the store in order to observe “social distancing” requirements. However, the dramatic drop off in foot traffic from the closure of neighboring businesses and the stay-at-home advisories issued by the City and State has resulted in a drop of more than 25% of the shrine’s revenue. Fortunately, Solera has been able to stay afloat during this crisis thanks to their small base of loyal customers, but Maria fears that they will not be able to sustain the business in the event of a prolonged general economic shutdown.
Given that protecting the health and safety of her staff and customers is her top priority, Maria is considering a temporary closure of Solera after Easter Sunday until the COVID-19 crisis eases and financial relief from the stimulus program is received. Without an immediate and substantial infusion of funds, Solera will have a difficult time ordering inventory, paying the staff, and meeting their monthly operating expenses.
Maria noted that even without COVID-19, operating a small wine business is extremely difficult. “People want convenience,” she noted. “It’s much easier to drive to a big supermarket with a liquor license where they have plenty of parking, long hours, and one-stop shopping where you can get beer and wine along with your groceries and everything else.”
While Roslindale is noted for its superb restaurants, they must order their liquor from authorized distributors, which means that Solera cannot realize the economic benefits of partnering with the local restaurants for their beer and wine needs.
However, Maria is going all out to fulfill customers’ needs for the upcoming holiday. Solera offers a “First of the Month” discount where shoppers can get 10% off orders of a case of 6-11 wine bottles and 15% off a case of 12 or more. Shoppers can take advantage of this discount between the hours of 2-6 p.m. this Friday 4/3 and Saturday 4/4. In addition, Maria is pleased to announce that Solera will be extending this promotion to next Friday (4/10) and Saturday (4/11) between the hours of 1-6 p.m. for Easter. Please call the store or check Solera’s web site https://solerashrinetowine.com or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Solera-A-Shrine-to-Wine-165848490121168/ for any possible changes to this schedule. Solera will be closed Sunday (4/5) through Thursday (4/9).
While walk-ins are welcome, please note that only two customers will be allowed inside the store at a time due to the health emergency. So please call ahead of time, and be sure to check Solera’s web site to confirm their hours of operation for Easter weekend.
You can call in your order to 617-469-4005 or e-mail your request to email@example.com. Maria’s staff will get your order ready with as little as a half hour notice for you to pick up during Solera’s posted hours.