Photo Credit: Courtesy of Happy Cork
Inside Happy Cork: The Black-Owned Brooklyn Shop Giving Black Wine And Spirit Brands A Home
As Brooklyn native Jay Z said, “Over here we measure success by how many people successful next to you.” That could also be said for Brooklyn resident Sunshine Foss and her husband Remo.
The Foss’ are the proud owners of Happy Cork, a wine and spirit store that features Black and minority-owned brands while giving them a home when other stores may not.
As a former designer who eventually moved into real estate, Sunshine and her husband acquired the Happy Cork space back in 2016. The couple agreed that if they couldn’t find someone to take on the commercial lease by 2018, they would turn it into their own wine and spirit shop.
Fast forward to March 2019, and Happy Cork opened its doors in the heart of Brooklyn.
“All of the brands that we carry are amazing,” Sunshine told Travel Noire. “We try each and every brand before we work on bringing them into our store, and they are all so good!”
The process of bringing some of the brands into the store can take up to six months. The reason, many are not set up with distributors and distribution is the only way that Happy Cork can purchase brands for its shelves. Rather than find brands to replace them, Sunshine works to set the businesses up with a distributor so that they can get placement in her shop, and eventually others.
“It can be so hard to get infused into this white-male dominated industry, especially as a Black or minority brand. There have been times that I have requested minority brands from certain distributors, and they tell me they don’t carry any. Not even one.”
Additionally, Sunshine recalls the hardships faced when trying to open the store. Many of the local neighbors wouldn’t patronize the store because they were “intimidated” by its appeal. But, Sunshine would stand outside literally talking to people who walked by, offering them samples, and showing that they too deserved a nice place to come in and purchase things made by people who looked like them.
Happy Cork currently sells about 35 Black-owned wine varietals, around 15 Black-owned spirits, and 99% of their accessory brands come from Black artisans as well.
Despite being in New York during the height of the pandemic, the shop has been able to remain open and only closed down for two days for a deep cleaning.
“Business has actually increased and flourished for us during this time,” Sunshine said. “With everything going on, between the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, it seems that people are drinking more.”
The only changes that the business has had to make is to pivot from their weekly in-person public and private tastings to now offering the experiences virtually.
You can come in to buy, order via the shop’s app for pickup, or have items delivered to New York, D.C., and Florida. Sunshine is currently working on getting licenses to ship to other states as well.
Happy Cork is located at 51 Buffalo Avenue in Brooklyn. They are open Monday thru Thursday from 12-9:30p, and Friday thru Sunday from 12-10:30p.