Entrepreneur of the Month: Kirk Sprenger- Chappaqua Wines and Spirits

Kirk Sprenger, owner of Chappaqua Wines and Spirits, is an expert on how to keep a business strong and profitable even during recessionary times. Mr. Sprenger has been in the wine industry for almost 30 years. He opened Chappaqua Wine and Spirits in 1996. He worked hard and had significant success.

In September 2008 the world changed. Soon after Lehman Brother's declared bankruptcy, Mr. Sprenger experienced considerable scaling back in wine sales. "Customers who were buying the $50-$60 bottles were now buying the $25-$30 bottles. And, those buying the $25-$30 bottles were now shopping for the $15-$20 bottles. Orders fell, parties were canceled and corporate gift giving was reduced," recalls Mr. Sprenger.

Although worried, Mr. Sprenger did not panic. "During the start of the recession, customers were leaning away from the more expensive wines. So I began tailoring my buying to more economic and value wines. These caught on fast, as my clients discovered that you need not spend a lot on a name brand wine to get a very good one." Mr. Sprenger changed his product mix and also offered price incentives and promotions. By early winter 2009, his efforts bore fruit and Chappaqua Wines and Spirits' gross receipts stabilized.

Mr. Sprenger didn't stop there. He decided to make short and long term changes to his cost structure. He cut his buying patterns to 30 - 60 day turnovers instead of 90 - 120 day turnovers. He negotiated with his day to day operating providers such as the phone company, the insurance company and even the refuse collector to cut back wherever possible. These measures helped. However, his biggest expense was his rent. Many entrepreneurs think that their rent is non-negotiable. Not Mr. Sprenger!

Mr. Sprenger worked with his landlord to see if there was a way to adjust his rent. And sure enough, an opportunity opened up to move into the adjacent space, which was smaller and less expensive. The space needed complete renovation, however. Since banks were not lending even to their best customers, CCR assisted Mr. Sprenger to carry out the necessary leasehold improvements to the new location.

By September 2009, Mr. Sprenger was in a bright new location, with lower rent and improving economic forecasts. He had lowered both variable and fixed costs, adjusted his product mix to meet the changed environment and was poised to grow steadily into the future.

"I urge everyone to take a close look at their statements and bills. By scrutinizing my credit card statements for my sales receipts, I was able to eliminate some of the miscellaneous fees and reduce the basis points. I went over my insurance policy with my provider and found that I was vastly over covered in certain areas, which reduced my premium by almost 50%. The lesson I learned was that saving money is making money," Mr. Sprenger.

CCR is an SBA Microlender covering Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester Counties. CCR can lend up to $35,000 to start-up and existing businesses. Contact us: tunderwood@ccrhv.org.
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65 King Street, Chappaqua, NY 10514 • 914.238.3114 • chappwines@verizon.net