Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, a fine wine and gourmet food emporium from New Jersey, is taking over the lease of the recently closed Dean & DeLuca store in St. Helena. Much like its predecessor, Gary’s will be stocking bottles, as well as cheese and charcuterie platters, fresh bread and olive oil, and picnic-ready deli salads and sandwiches.
Owner Gary Fisch is pushing to open in September, but still needs to hire a chef, who’ll start from scratch and craft a totally new menu. Unlike the four locations in New Jersey, some of which sit next to strip malls and sub shops, this menu will be curated from and calibrated for the valley, featuring local and seasonal ingredients.
Gary himself may be from Jersey, but he’s been a cabernet country regular going on three decades. During his 30 years in the wine business, he’s made pilgrimages to Napa Valley at least once a year, even putting his 19-year-old son to work scrubbing barrels in a summer internship. Fisch says he’s looking forward to splitting his time between the coasts, and has a personal attachment to the space.
Dean & DeLuca leaves behind a legacy. Once the icon of luxury, with its towers of gourmet foods, the company has been rapidly closing stores, amid reports of empty shelves and unpaid vendors. The Napa Valley location closed a couple of weeks ago, signaling the end of an era.
“It was an iconic space,” Fisch recalls. “I used to walk through and take pictures, to discover new bottles of wine, and try to track them down. But at the end of its life, it was devastating.” Fisch is working to restore the warm wood floors, while putting on a fresh coat of paint, and rolling in a few new cold cases.
The biggest difference might be the sheer volume of inventory — maybe this is where the Jersey starts showing. They’re boasting more than 600 wine labels, 250 beer and spirit varieties, and 200 types of cheeses. More than half of those wines will be local, but plenty of cheese will come from France, and olive oils from Italy, Greece, and Spain.
Surrounded by wineries, with meaty Italian sandwiches just up the road, it’s an interesting addition. “I’ve gotten hundreds of emails welcoming us to the neighborhood,” Fisch proudly reports. The best was from the older owner of an iconic winery. Back when he convinced his wife to move up from San Francisco to St. Helena, “She said the only thing that made it bearable was the cappuccino at Dean & DeLuca,” Fisch laughs. The pressure is on.