Meet Siri Nyman. “I am the wine buyer, and St. Louis Park is my special store.” Her mission is to make Top Ten Liquors a very special place to visit.
Previously a maître d’ at Corner Table, Nyman learned about many new wines and the owner’s courageous strategy: “He put no chardonnay on the menu,” she exclaims. “I had to come up with narratives to sell these wines when no one knew how to pronounce them.” Nyman learned to take risks with customers. She stopped selling and became an ambassador.
According to Nyman, being a wine ambassador is about providing the right translation, the most accurate representation of the wine. Consumers often experience a disconnect between what they think is within the bottle and what their experience actually turns out to be. Nyman takes it upon herself to make sure her clients get the right perception. “When you give them the right direction, they embrace the experience.”
Nyman knows wine from historical, personal and experiential perspectives, and helps her customers do the same. “Wine is like music,” she says. “Once you drink it, it’s done. You just savor it, and hopefully you remember that. There’s nothing left. It can be something very sacred.”
Getting to Know the Customer
When new customers walk in, Nyman will throw a quick greeting their way, then give them some space. “SLP shoppers are the most efficient shoppers I have ever seen in my entire life,” she says. “They can walk in and be done with everything in 30 seconds. My guess is that they are very productive people. I might not get them the first time.”
It’s after Nyman rings them up that she starts the conversation. “If I think they’re missing out on a special wine, I’ll say something,” she says. “I’m not there to just sell them anything.”
Her goal is for the customer’s experience with the wine to be exactly as she describes it, so that they don’t feel cheated or surprised, but knowledgeable. “I have this guy who just buys beer and liquor for his family, and if he does buy wine, it’s some $7 bottle,” she says. “After he saw me so many times in action, he finally came up to me and said, ‘My wife likes such and such wine, do you have a recommendation for me?’ He tried a beaujolais, which I bought out of season, fruit forward, with a body like a pinot noir. I gave him a deal, he came back, and now it’s the one wine he buys.”
Nyman is adamant about transforming the experience of the wine drinker from the moment they even enter the parking lot. Shoppers may notice innovative marketing this fall as she gets the arts world involved to create an homage to department-store window displays. “It seems archaic, window dressing, but I think that as the world becomes so digital, there are certain little crevices where window dressing will become a boutique-y thing,” she says.
Nyman also believes in coaxing people out of their comfort zones. During the store’s monthly tasting event called the Crossover Challenge, Nyman picks wines, then challenges beer drinkers to try them. The experts at Top Ten create a neighborhood feel, adding humor in approaching curated wines and craft beers, and almost end up making fun of themselves. “We have this pretend competitiveness about beer and wine, but we actually both love both.” You can try crossing over to the other side the third Friday of every month.