The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2013

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Taking Inventory with. . . Mick Ter Haar Wine Director, Schaefer's, Skokie, IL by Tom Caestecker Jr. / photo by Sonia Ter Haar O ne of the most colossal understatements is to say that the alcoholic beverage industry has endured a tumultuous history. The intensity of a stormy past is even more evident in the Chicago area. Prohibition was not only flouted, it was punctuated by city-wide bloodbaths. Recent years have produced more dreary problems nevertheless jarring to many folks—consolidation and recession among them. THE "5" LIST Mick Ter Haar's Top Five Faves 1 Feedback—whether positive or negative—is always useful. It helps our staff know your preferences better. 2 Our customers are most willing to listen to any wine suggestions. 3 The increased popularity of rosé. 4 Winemakers who are engaging—not just with me, but with our customers—during our special store events. 5 The wine industry's continued evolution, which makes my job more exciting and interesting. Mick Ter Haar's Top Pet Peeves Mick Ter Haar, Wine Director at Schaefer's, on location in Italy. Amid the turbulence, there are rock-solid businesses above the fray. One is Schaefer's, located in Chicago's north suburb of Skokie. Its Wine Director, Mick Ter Haar, guides the renowned 76-year-old retail store along its historic path of providing impeccable service and a fine selection of wines, spirits and beer. Ter Haar, a Michigander by way of Boulder and Vail, Colorado—plus a jaunt through Chicago's steakhouse culture—embraces the roles of Schaefer's curator and its dedication to each individual customer. "There's so much history here," Ter Haar says. "People come in and say, 'I remember coming here with my parents when I was a kid.' The wine industry is constantly evolving, and we have to keep up, but [because of customers' desire for Schaefer's to remain largely unchanged] we make changes in very subtle ways." Because the clientele is multi-generational—and with so many exquisite and singular wines available—many customers are well-educated already. So Schaefer's staff must deftly alternate from conveying considerable knowledge and keeping things approachable. "Bill Graham, our owner, is always listening for new ideas," adds Ter Haar. "Still, our focus is on service. We want to stay away from being intimidating, and don't ever use the word 'upsell' either." 1 When people get intimidated to ask for help: You are not being a burden on us, really! 2 Corked bottles. Unlike at a restaurant, customers find out later and have to inconvenience themselves with a return trip. 3 Let us know your budget. "Moderately priced" is too vague. We don't judge, and we can find something for your budget. 4 Champagne/sparkling wine isn't just for celebrations. Try it as a food-pairing wine. 5 Favorite staff member not around? There's always a member of our team who will assist you. Just ask. 130  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2013 TP0813_104-132.indd 130 7/24/13 9:41 PM

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