The Wine & Cheese Place will open Spirit Wine & Craft in south St. Louis this weekend

The Wine & Cheese Place is adding to its four existing retail locations with an entirely new concept: Spirit Wine & Craft. The first store will have a soft opening on Saturday, May 21, in the Southampton space formerly occupied by Craft Beer Cellar and Ursa Minor at 5760 Chippewa St. in the Southampton neighborhood of South City.

At 2,800 square feet, Spirit Wine & Craft will cover a smaller footprint than the typical Wine & Cheese Place store (the Kirkwood store is around 5,500 square feet, for example), and will feature a more focused selection of wines, spirits, craft beers and artisanal foods including cheese, mustards, pickles, jams and chips. “Anything you'd want for a picnic is basically going to be here,” said owner Vijay Shroff.

The Wine & Cheese Place has a long-running partnership with The Living Room, which will roast coffee beans for sale at Spirit Wine & Craft. Shroff said customers will see local products highlighted throughout the food selection.

Shroff said that Spirit Wine & Craft is an evolution of the original Wine & Cheese Place concept, and “better reflects the focus of our offering, which is not just wine but a lot of craft beer, a lot of spirits, plus some gourmet foods.”

Customers won’t lack for choice, with over 600 whiskeys, 400 wines and 400 beers on the shelves. That slight weighting toward whiskey reflects customer demand at The Wine & Cheese Place’s stores, Shroff explained. “A lot of the success we've had is just being able to offer a huge number of whiskeys for people who are interested in bourbons and Scotches et cetera,” he said. “Plus, we've got people who really know their stuff, and so I think people come to us for the choice, but also we've got folks who can explain 600 or so different whiskeys.”

The cheese offerings will still be significant, though scaled down in comparison with The Wine & Cheese Place. For one thing, Spirit Wine & Craft won’t offer the cut-to-order services that are among the hallmarks of The Wine & Cheese Place. “We just don't have the square footage for the facilities that that takes,” Shroff said. “We're going to have prepackaged cheese that we can cut at our other stores and have it here, but the square footage devoted to the cheese prep is gone and it will just be more of a cooler. You're going to have all our major categories, but whereas at our other stores you may find over five cheddars, you'll probably only find three.”

Spirit Wine & Craft is also launching an initiative called the Spirit Co-op, designed to create retail opportunities for local makers and artisans who are unable to access retail via conventional wholesale arrangements. “It's a struggle because to get shelf space in a retail environment is difficult,” Shroff said. “And then if you're going to sell it wholesale, you've got to discount it by quite a bit in order for the reseller to make a profit.”

The program isn’t limited to makers in the food space, either – the Spirit Co-op is open to creators working in arts, crafts and other categories. “We're really looking for folks from the area who are making crafts,” Shroff said. “They want more of a full-time retail environment where they can sell to their customers, and then we'd support them with our social media.” More information on the Spirit Co-op is available at The Wine & Cheese Place website.

Shroff is already looking ahead to expanding the Spirit Wine & Craft concept to other locations in the St. Louis metro area. “If the right place does come up, we're not going to wait around,” he said. Spirit Wine & Craft also plans to launch a delivery service later in the year. In the near term, customers will be able to use The Wine & Cheese Place’s website to order items from the company’s entire inventory for pickup at Spirit Wine & Craft. After the soft opening on Saturday, the store will officially open on Tuesday, May 24.