Photo Credit: Courtesy of Happy Cork
How Happy Cork Helped Keep Other Black-Owned Businesses Afloat During The Pandemic
Sunshine Foss had no intention of entering the wine and spirits industry. On the contrary, she had studied fashion design and later got into real estate with her husband. When they couldn’t find a tenant for one of their buildings, Foss sprung into action, opening a liquor store in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York in 2018.
This is the origin story of Happy Cork, now a community institution providing a high-quality selection of wines to the public. But this isn’t just any liquor store as Foss explains.
“We’re not in the Park Slope area,” she told Travel Noire. “We’re in Bed-Stuy. So the typical wine stores or liquor stores around the area were not offering anything like natural wines or really great organic wines for the neighborhood. I knew I wanted to have something that was going to bring goodness to Black people.”
Today, Happy Cork boasts the largest assortment of Black-owned, minority-owned, and female-owned brands under one roof. What the store lacks in square footage, it makes up for in stellar customer service, innovative experiences, and incredible storytelling.
“This is like a museum. It is really like bringing history and the stories behind the brands. We make sure that we taste everything, and that staff tastes everything, so they can describe it to customers. We get the stories directly from the brand. When you do come in, it’s a history lesson.”
Like many other businesses, when the pandemic hit, Foss was forced to pivot. The in-store wine tastings and meet and greets that galvanized the community and became a social hot spot went virtual. But Happy Cork found itself in the fortuitous position of never having to close. Sadly, the same could not be said for other Black-owned businesses in the area.
Instead, Foss and Happy Cork were determined to uplift the community.
“We were deemed essential,” she said. “I called up a few places and said, ‘Okay, if we’re essential, then I’m going to make you essential.’ I wish I could have helped everyone but with our license, we can only do anything that’s associated with wine and spirits. So I made sure I got people that made coasters, glasses, candles, and teas.”
“I think my end goal for Happy Cork is to one day be able to say 100% of the product that’s in here are just underserved brands that are so amazing that you guys have to try. And they’re nowhere else. I think that would be my goal, to have the entire assortment. Just brands that people have never discovered.”
To learn more about this Brooklyn business, visit the website: happy-cork.com.