Virtually every respectable New Yorker has a story to tell about Astor Wines & Spirits, the iconic store that sits on the corner of Lafayette and East 4th Street. Although until now known for its free wine tastings and in-store events, the shop has just earned another claim to fame: the Fisher family that has owned it until now just sold the store to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which allows employees to hold shares of the company and, therefore, earn a portion of the profits.
The store is now quite literally owned by the folks who work in it.
The historic business move was made public in a tweet earlier this week.
Andy Fisher, the company's president, went into detail about the decision on Instagram. "My brother Rob, Astor's chief operating officer, and I believe the best succession plan is to entrust Astor to the people who have been so instrumental in building our enterprise," he said in a statement. "By becoming an employee-owned business, we ensure that Astor Wines & Spirits will maintain our qualitative standards in selection and service while providing the additional benefit of rewarding our outstanding team."
According to The Village Sun, the Fisher family has owned and operated the downtown destination, which currently employees 75 people, for over 50 years. Although the sale was made final on August 16, the price has not been revealed.
Although city dwellers are familiar with the bottle shop's location at the De Vinne Press Building (one of the very first individually landmarked buildings in all of New York), not many know that Astor Wines & Spirits' original address was actually on Astor Place. The company moved to the new space in 2006.
The much applauded development follows the sudden closure of another beloved wine shop, the only Trader Joe's Wine Store in all of New York. Back in August, the space permanently shut down without any warning. Since then, reports have been circulating about the decision's connection to employees' attempts at organizing a union vote.
Especially given the rumors associated with this last closing, folks have been praising Astor Wines & Spirits' decision to embrace a pretty rare business setup. We wholeheartedly join that chorus.