One thing became evident to Joey Wölffer over the past few months, and that is the importance of home.
“I’ve spent my life running from thing to thing being busy,” says Wölffer, the co-owner of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Joey Wölffer Boutique, Wölffer Stables and Wölffer Kitchen. Wölffer says that the past few months, as the world has dealt with the quarantine, have forced her to “stop and look at my life and home.” She adds that this time spent at home has been a “blessing.”
Her previous home was a “special little spot” in Redwood, Sag Harbor. As her family began expanding, they realized they needed more space. “We were living in this cute little house,” she recalls. After outgrowing the home two years ago, she and her husband, two children and two dogs moved to a new home in North Haven.
“We slowly changed it and decorated it,” she says of the North Haven home. “It’s been really fun during this time, just getting really comfortable in our space. I think our attitude towards home life has completely changed with this. We feel safe at home. Home is really your safe zone. We have projects at night now, rather than just going to another dinner party. My husband is really into photography. We’re just kind of diving into parts of ourselves that we shut down for years by saying that we’re so busy.”
Wölffer had been in Florida when the pandemic hit, and has recently closed her Palm Beach store, while her namesake boutique in Sag Harbor continues to offer a treasure trove of pieces by a mix of designers, vintage finds and her own creations. Ultimately, what was best for her family was to be on the East End.
“My life is here, my family is here, my vineyard is here,” says Wölffer.
“At first, when this started, we felt completely immobilized. We were really scared,” she says of the onset of the pandemic.
The furniture from her Palm Beach store was shipped to Sagaponack to decorate the Beach Shack, a new outdoor clothing boutique, which makes use of the deck space at the Wölffer Wine Stand.
“It was really on a whim,” she says, on the opening of Beach Shack. Wölffer launched the Styleliner Truck, a luxury accessories boutique on wheels, in 2010. The Beach Shack’s merchandise is similar to what would be inside the truck, but outside.
“As a shopper, what an ideal way to shop–outside!” she says. As businesses begin to open, shoppers may be hesitant to jump back into stores, and shopping outdoors offers a way for them to feel safe.
“It’s still going through our heads,” she says of the store’s reopening, and consumer confidence about shopping indoors. “You can’t go from being locked up to being out and about and feeling comfortable. That’s the struggle, getting back into society.”
“I wont let anyone in my store without a mask,” she asserts.
Over the past few months, businesses have had to get creative to drive business. When COVID-related closures first began, the vineyard set up a rosé drive-thru, so that East Enders could pick up Wölffer’s famous rosé, without leaving the car. She credits her husband, Max Rohn, for coming up with the idea.
With the pandemic, the team was forced to be creative. Her main goal was to keep everyone employed. “We love our team. We worked really hard to get a team of people like that together,” she says.
“My proudest moment of this whole thing is being able to keep employees on through a crisis and I hope we’ll be able to continue to do that,” says Wölffer.
With the reopening of the vineyard the goal is to keep customers and employees safe. “We’ve been extra careful,” she says. “We are not taking advantage of the situation. We’re in for the long haul.”
Many East End businesses have taken a hit over the past few months. “We’re never going to be able to match the numbers we’re used to doing and we’ve come to terms with that,” she says. “We’d rather the experience be great.”
With social distancing regulations in place, all tables at the vineyard are situated outdoors, with stunning views of the vineyard. Visitors can enjoy food selections including small plates and seasonal specials, as well wine by the bottle or glass.
She also believes that the vineyard can bring a new level of experience as time goes on. “We need to do this right,” she says. “We’re a family brand and we’ve been around forever, we’d like to continue to be around forever.”
Wölffer Girls, a ready to wear tie-dye collection is also available, with a portion of sales from the collection going to benefit the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center. Each piece is hand tie-dyed with love by Joey, family and team. The concept was created at the beginning of the pandemic to help her teach her young daughters the importance of giving back.
“I was really, like a lot of people, really depressed when this all happened I was feeling really lost,” says Wölffer.
She called on one of her friends, in tears. “I’ve gone from doing a million things to feeling completely lost,” she recalls saying.
Her friend’s advice was this: “It’s okay to have one project you’re working on.”
“I’ve always survived on doing so many things at once,” says Wölffer.
“I really took that and ran with it,” she says. The tie-dye job became her one project. “I’m up all night sewing. I love it.”
“My older daughter really liked it, because she could get covered in blue,” she laughs. She also tells a story about her Jack Russell jumping into the dye, noting it was the “funniest thing ever.”
How does she balance it all?
“I will never take credit for everything because that’s not real. I have incredible people working for me in everything that I do and I’m surrounded by people who also have great ideas and people who want to work hard.”
“You’re able to be successful because of the people you surround yourself with. No one ever does it on their own,” she says. “I think team work, especially during these times is the most important.”