GREAT FALLS — Virtual meetings on Zoom have become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s giving some businesses opportunities to extend their operations.
5th and Wine owners Mark Tronson and his daughter Tara Strunk have adopted an online approach to continue to connect with customers while the restaurant section is off-limits. For the past four weeks, 5th and Wine has been hosting virtual wine tasting tours via Zoom.
“My daughter Tara came up with the idea of this virtual wine tasting, just trying to figure out how we can kind of stay in business. It's really helped our financial bottom line,” Tronson said. “And it's also, I think, kept us connected and maybe even more so connected to our good customers, and maybe build some loyalty into the brand and things. So I think it's been just a win-win for all of us.”
It’s five nights a week, with a different bottle of wine for each night, and the winemakers themselves join in to give their expertise. Each session lasts about 45 minutes, and they’ve been relatively popular, bringing in about 40 guests each time from the U.S. and around the globe.
“It's been really cool. We had a guy from Chile jump on, we had a guy from Spain jump on…which everybody's jumping on and saying, ‘Thank God, I have something to do tonight,’” Tronson said. “…6:30 every night you got, you got a schedule you got to get going. But the winemakers are also bored out of their mind. They're all in their houses and not really being able to work. So they've been really thrilled to actually come in and have fun with us as a community of wine drinkers in Great Falls.”
“And we interview them more about, you know, why they how they got in the wine business, what their story is, what their current role is,” Tronson said. “So we've had sales reps and we've had winemakers and we've had all kinds of different levels of people on but it's always in conjunction with the wine and that we're drinking.”
To possibly see a different crop of customers and give wine drinkers a break, this week 5th and Wine will be 5th and Beer. Same idea, but with an assorted six-pack of craft brews every night. It starts Tuesday night and costs $75 for the week. Simply place your order online, go pick up the beer from their building and enjoy starting at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re going to have a national representative from Anheuser Busch come on, which will be fun and the we get a big company out of Seattle called Elysian, and then we've got four other Montana breweries that we're going to do,” Tronson said.
They plan to go back to wine next week. And if there’s a silver lining, Tronson said these virtual tastings have been more productive than some he’s experienced in person, so customers might expect 5th and Wine to occasionally do these after the pandemic.