NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Most wineries largely depend on customer visitation, sales from dine-in restaurants, and hotel occupancy.
Many wine markets across the country have shattered since the coronavirus outbreak. Duplin Winery in North Myrtle Beach was one of those wineries heavily impacted by the pandemic.
When the virus first began to spread, Duplin’s North Myrtle Beach location lost nearly $60,000 a week.
This loss was mainly due to closing the winery to the public and paying employees during the “home-or-work” order.
While many people were at home and online, employees at the winery began pouring their efforts into online advertising.
Employees never thought of creating virtual wine tasting experiences until they weren’t able to physically do so.
Jonathan Fussell, owner of Duplin’s North Myrtle Beach location, says virtual engagement alone boosted online sales.
“Now because of all the uncertainties, we want to be safe. We don’t want to overrun ourselves,” Fussell explained.
“We’re trying to create these experiences to keep [customers] engaged but yet, they at least, don’t have to be here if they choose not to. Since that, our online sales have increased 500%.”
Local grocery store sales also increased by 38%. In spite of recent challenges, owners of Duplin Winery are also pouring into the community and their employees.
During the “home-or-work” order, owners provided free groceries every week to 173 of their employees. Fussell mentioned that even though his employees are still being paid some of their spouses were not.
While supporting employees during the pandemic, owners also began supporting first responders by turning bottles of wine into gallons of hand sanitizer.
Fussell tells News13 that 15,000 gallons have already been donated to hospital staff and sheriff departments throughout North and South Carolina.
The winery plans to create hand sanitizer to sell to customers in the near future. Until then, Duplin hand sanitizer stations were placed throughout the winery before reopening on Monday.
Staff members are working to keep customers safe by limiting the amount of visitors in-and-outside the winery. Bar occupancy has also been reduced to 50% for all wine tastings.
Along with monitoring social distancing, employees are sanitizing counters and plastic shields are set up at the register.
Fussell says that so far, he feels very blessed to have so many customers since reopening.