Splendor of Life in Long Island City: Blue Streak Wines
stirs the Spring,
joy grows like a plant,
abysses close up,
song is born.
Oh, thou, jug of wine, in the desert
with the delightful woman I love,
said the old poet.
Let the pitcher of wine
add its kiss to the kiss of love.
—Ode To Wine, Pablo Neruda
Wine, a word associated with love, travel, passion, and celebration is, as Neruda laments, “the earthly splendor of life,” and I couldn’t agree more. Not to suggest that I’m an aficionada or anything so glamorous, but my husband and I enjoy trying unique wines from all over the world, providing us both with a metaphorical journey to beautiful places like Turkey, Italy, Africa, and Hungary. So it made sense to go behind the scenes and learn more about Blue Streak Wines & Spirits, the company delivering, for free, beautiful wines to my front door the past year.
Blue Streak’s inception proves just as romantic as the wine itself. Before the store was even a gleam in his eye, owner Stephen Spiller and his wife traveled to Majorca while vacationing in Spain. The trip turned life changing, after the couple sampled extraordinary wines. “We tasted these Catalonian family wines, and my wife turned to me and said why can’t we drink these wines in New York?” Stephen remembers. “She said, you’re not working; why don’t you open a wine store?”
It was true. Two years after relocating from LA to New York City in the name of love, but then that’s a story for another day, Stephen had been unable to find a job as an attorney. He thought, why not? Upon their return to New York, all the pieces fell into place. Spending hours walking up and down the streets in developing Long Island City, Stephen contemplated opening a store next to the subway, easy access for commuters on their way home, or in the areas where people actually lived.
“When I came down to the river, which I thought was fabulous, and saw this high-rise and this store area, which was an empty shell, I thought maybe the idea of having a store near where people lived would be a better idea. “ Stephen says. “I contacted the owners and they had no plans for the store at the time so I made my pitch.”
Although the builders used the space for storing tools and equipment, Stephen envisioned his ideal wine store. “I wanted it to be a comfortable atmosphere not intimidating.” In the end, he produced an award-winning design with that exact aesthetic that customers notice and appreciate.
“It’s very typical of certain places in Long Island City that really go the extra mile,” says Michael Brennan, a faithful Blue Streak customer. “We always come to this wine store because they care about which bottles they sell here.” And Michael’s wife, Marina, looks forward to the special offerings, like weekly wine tastings and the wine club.
Stephen credits the Blue Streak team as the anchor for cementing the store’s place as a Long Island City staple—the Cheers of wine stores. “I’m learning from them actually, and it’s fantastic.” Stephen says. “We’re lucky, blessed.” Just as all of the other parts of Blue Streak came together rather seamlessly, so did the staff element. “Those two guys are phenomenal,” says Stephen. “I can’t be without them now. Don’t let them know,” he admits with a hearty laugh.
Those two guys are James Lee and Rob Bralow. The first Blue Streak employee, James has been the “backbone” of deliveries and stocking. With a Sociology degree, James continues his education with a recent certification in Wine & Spirits Education. Blue Streak’s serious wine geek, Viticulture and Vinification Certified, Rob, worked in Public Relations and education before joining the team. “It’s not just about selling; it’s about teaching and introducing new things to people, expanding the knowledge level of the average person.” Rob says. “It’s those education moments that make my day.”
Blue Streak Wines & Spirits makes a point to give back to its beloved community by participating in special events like Taste of LIC, hosted by The Chocolate Factory as well as unique charity events at the store. “It’s a great way for us to really be in the community, “Rob says,” and find different ways to help out and be a part of where we are.”