Two New York sommeliers with lifelong ties to Hell’s Kitchen are bringing a new kind of family-owned wine store and meeting spot to the area, as inclusively-designed Beaupierre Wine & Spirits opens today on 10th Avenue.
The cheery, intimate store inside the ground floor of a pre-war building possesses a uniquely inclusive design: ease of accessibility for shoppers with disabilities, partly because Beaupierre co-owner Yannick Benjamin uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a car accident at the age of 25. In addition to sidewalk-to-store power-assist wheelchair access, the shop features shelves at eye level for wheelchair patrons, and has plans to install Braille signage and launch a website with additional user accommodations.
“I grew up in this building — my parents still live right above, and my sister lives down the street,” said Yannick of the space at 664 10th Avenue between W46th and W47th Street. Yannick and his fellow sommelier and business partner, wife Heidi Turzyn, have more than 40 years of combined experience in the hospitality industry. Heidi, who grew up on Long Island, has been working in restaurants “since I was old enough to work,” moving through prestigious culinary institutions as the director of beverages for David Burke Group, Gotham Bar & Grill and Wine Spectator before going into business with Yannick, who had followed his parents’ legacy into the hospitality industry.
“Both of my parents are French and worked in the restaurant business,” he said. “And so it was one of those things where I went on the same journey. Of course, like every typical immigrant story, they wanted me to work in an office with air conditioning instead. The hospitality industry is very challenging.”
Heidi and Yannick experienced its challenges first hand when their latest project, acclaimed East Harlem Peruvian restaurant Contento was forced to delay its planned March 2020 opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. “The truth of the matter is I think that sometimes it’s through tragedy and when things get very intense or when you have your back up against the wall — that’s when a lot of people have their best ideas,” said Yannick.
It was during the dark days of early COVID that the idea for Beaupierre was born. Yannick was in the area to pick something up from his mother, when he noticed that a ground floor space in the building was available. “I thought, ‘this would make a great wine shop,’” he said. “And then that night I said, ‘Heidi, what do you think about opening up a wine shop in this building?’ And she replied, ‘Are you serious?’ It took me a bit of convincing, but then she was all about it.”
The pair decided to name the spot Beaupierre, French for “beautiful rock” and a tribute to Yannick’s father, Pierre. They set to work on the renovation and design of the space, which “has been a long journey” in the midst of the usual New York City construction, supply and licensing challenges, said Yannick.
As they stocked shelves and put the finishing touches on the store with the help of teammate, longtime friend and wine professional Nestor Escalante, Yannick and Heidi shared the pride they feel in being able to offer a store designed to welcome the diverse communities of Hell’s Kitchen. “You’ve got to work with people that understand your mission and believe in it as well — and that’s why having a guy like Nestor working with you is so important,” said Yannick. His longtime collaborator also volunteers with his wine accessibility nonprofit, Wine on Wheels.
“Making this store barrier-free is of the utmost importance,” said Yannick. “We want people to feel like they can come here, no matter their ability. We want people to feel as independent as possible while shopping here.” Having experienced life both out of and in a wheelchair, he sees a need for other business owners to consider customers with disabilities.
“In New York City alone, there are over 100,000 full-time wheelchair users and there are 61 million people with disabilities in America,” said Yannick. “There’s over $500 billion dollars of spending power within those 61 million Americans. I think the real issue is, if you can’t get emotionally incentivized, you better get financially incentivized.”
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Heidi and Yannick want Beaupierre’s mission of inclusivity to extend beyond physical access — as a place where every Hell’s Kitchener feels welcome. “We want to be part of the community, and we want people of all backgrounds to feel welcome, not just people with disabilities,” said Yannick. “We want everybody from every background, from every race, gender — there’s physical accessibility and there’s social accessibility, and that’s something everyone can practice.”
As Beaupierre gets off the ground, they plan community tastings, wine education and gatherings, as well as small business mentorship for fellow hospitality industry professionals with disabilities. “We want to help people learn what’s needed to run a small business and more about the hospitality industry,” said Yannick. “The employment rate for people with disabilities is terrible, and we want to be part of the change in the narrative.”
And as they prepare to launch, Yannick and Heidi are excited to finally open their doors to the eager Hell’s Kitchen community. “We have a mosaic of so many different New York friends who are excited to visit, and we’re really grateful,” said Yannick. “I went to grammar school all 10 years at Sacred Heart School on 10th right around the corner. I’ve seen all these second and-third generation Hell’s Kitchen kids that I grew up with, and they’re all pumped to come by.”
“People just want a place where there’s softness behind it, and that’s what we’re really here to do. We’re not reinventing the wheel., but I think what we’re bringing is a different style — we’re not just opening this for the sake of opening it. This place has a lot of meaning to us,” said Yannick.
“Tomorrow’s going to be crazy,” he added, “but that’s what motivates me to get out of bed. How many times does someone get the opportunity to be able to do this? And so it’s just really a blessing.”
Beaupierre Wine & Spirits is located at 664 10th Avenue between W46th and W47th Street. They open November 10 and will operate Monday to Saturday 10am to 9pm and Sunday 12pm to 8pm.