In the early 2000s, whilst I was studying a post graduate degree in communications, I was also moonlighting in pubs and liquor stores to earn some pocket money. I was always intrigued by wine as my father took great pride in his home cellar and I vividly remember looking at the beautiful timber boxes that Dad’s wine would arrive in, knowing that inside was something to be revered.
After a brief stint in corporate communications, I realised life in a multi national was ironically a bit restrictive for me. I felt the universe tugging me back towards wine and was lucky enough to be offered a role as an account manager at Montana Wines. The role was just meant to be something for the interim, I thought, until I landed a ‘very important’ job in my chosen vocation. The interim lasted four years and played a pivotal role in taking me to where I am today.
At 22 years of age I was sent off with a car, mobile phone and a Gregory’s (only those of you who are 40 plus will know that a Gregory’s was a hardcover book containing maps of Sydney- no google maps, sat nav or Siri in 2002) and told to go sell New Zealand wine (predominantly sauvignon blanc) in ‘The Shire’. ‘The where??!!’ I was a naive north shore girl, I didn't realise that Sydney extended beyond of the CBD!
With warnings of hobbits and a fear of never returning to my safe ground alive, I drove my oversized Ford Falcon station wagon down Southern Cross Drive, completely oblivious to what would become of my first trip south of the border.
My first day selling wine was going reasonably well until I hit a speed hump. ‘Cronulla Liquor Supply’ was the customer name that I read from the cardboard customer account file (no laptops back then either) and the primary contact/owner was a ‘Mr O’Brien’. Given the formal title I was expecting to be met by a mature-aged gentleman. However, when walking into the store for the first time, I was greeted by a tall, handsome 20-something year old, with all the attitude in the world and a certain smugness about the professional advantage he had over this fresh(wo)man sales rep.
When I asked if I could please see Mr. O’Brien, the said handsome/arrogant 20-something year old told me that indeed he was Mr. O’Brien! My heart sank- did this mean I had to convert and do business with this cocky bloke who could read me and my inexperience like the back of his hand?
Turned out he was a Mr. O’Brien, but from the next generation. Arrogant, handsome guy AKA Paul was helping THE Mr. O’Brien, his father, run the business so that he could step aside and nurse Paul's brother who sadly eventually died from Leukaemia.
From the moment we started doing business together, two things became very clear to me: I was a terrible sales person and Paul was a formidable retailer.
I’m sure you have worked out by now that a love story was brewing. Paul's self assurance and shrewd business antics were actually rather endearing. I finally succumbed to his constant requests to take me out on a date, and 10 months later we were engaged. 18 years on and we are still happily married with three gorgeous children.
We bought Cronulla Liquor Supply from Mr O’Brien Senior in 2007 and renamed it BottlO’Briens. We changed the focus of the business from selling major brands and bulk beer into specialising in craft beers and boutique wines and spirits.
We are fiercely independent and relish in our ability to efficiently react to the market's constant evolution and emerging trends. We are very proud of what we have achieved and what we are able to offer our customers, who are the drivers of our business and it's success.
An extension of our service is our newly updated website and of course this blog; The Sip. Our two regular contributors will be no other than Paul O’Brien himself, co-owner/founder of BottlO’Briens, talking all things beer (#beerswiththeboss) and Michael Phipps who will be taking you into his wonderful world of wine (#sipswithphipps).
Phippsy was born the son of a Penfold’s winemaker and hence spent a large portion of his childhood in the Barossa Valley (and sampling wine!). He began a career in hospitality management that led him to work in 5 star hotels and fine dining restaurants. Along the way he did his Court of Sommelier exam and became a certified sommelier- landing him sommelier roles at iconic Sydney restaurants such as Quay and Bennelong and Michelin star restaurant Kamimura in the Japanese ski village of Niseko.
Phippsy now calls Cronulla home, and we are thrilled to have him on board the BottlO’Briens team- both instore and online. He is our in house wine guru, so don’t hesitate to hit him up with anything weird, wacky or wonderful you need to know about wine!
The Boss, aka Paul, has already taken up enough space in this blog, however he is an understated wealth of knowledge. He grew up in the bottle shop watching his father stack the shelves with DA, KB and Fosters, Lindeman’s Porphyry Sauterne, Blue Nunn and flagons of sherry. When Paul started working for his father, he was scolded for ordering one case of Heinekein. ‘You’ll never sell that mate! Strikes, if you had brains, you’d be dangerous!’ But due to Paul’s insight and determination to evolve, that one case of Heinekein has turned into a selection of more than 400 varieties of beer. He has witnessed the evolution of the beer industry first hand and has some very interesting and always humorous observations about the phenomenon that is craft beer.
So without further ado, I hand you over to the boys….