University of California, San Diego - Political Science + Economics
Apicius International School of Hospitality, Florence, Italy - Wine Expertise
Part 1 of 2: Get to know Devin's partner, Lindsay Stewart, in today's other profile!
When Devin Parr pitched I Want Her Job there was one line that made us instantly want to know more. She said, "In an industry dominated by men, we have made a name for ourselves by creating a wine store that, for once, doesn't take itself too seriously." And because Devin put her dream job in better words than we can, we're going to let her do the talking for the rest of her introduction …
"I run a wine store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with my colleague, partner and best friend Lindsay Stewart. In addition to coming in to work every morning and — often over champagne and a bacon, egg and cheese from the cart on the corner — squealing like teenage girls over the fact that we get to work together in an industry we love. We also spend every day trying to build the same passion that we have for wine among our customers.
In a business dominated by men, we have made a name for ourselves by creating a wine store that, for once, doesn't take itself too seriously. From having "Spinning & Sipping" DJ nights, to Wine & Wii, to wine classes that turn into dance parties, to tastings after tastings after tastings, our mission is to make wine fun and accessible to everyone, whether you're a seasoned wine vet or a rookie. Wine is supposed to be about pleasure; we believe the wine buying experience should be all about that too.
We come from very diverse backgrounds (me: video game industry; Lindsay: fashion design), and would love to share our journey into wine and beyond with other strong, creative, motivated women."
Oh, and because she didn't say it in her introduction, we have to. Devin has two ridiculously cute eight-pound Shih Tzus named Betty and Owen. They accompany her on late nights as she sifts through music to find new gems. She admits it's an expensive hobby, but it is her guilty pleasure. She also loves to cook and entertain, especially with her family. And she says that when all of those things just mentioned come together, all is right in the world.
I've learned that it is possible to be tough and fair at the same time.
How did you discover your current job?
My goal is to ultimately open my own store -- hopefully in the near future. I knew I had to get experience in a retail environment in order to pull that off. I was managing a wine store in the village that was struggling financially. This job came up, and I jumped on it. I couldn't have imagined a better learning experience. I basically got my own store to run, without having to put money toward it. And it has been like wine retail boot camp ever since. It's intense.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
I gave up a great career in video game public relations to pursue this. I was working for a large PR agency on behalf of Microsoft and Xbox. But I felt like I was on autopilot. I knew there had to be more to life than press releases and product launches. Food and wine had always been a passion of mine, so I upped and moved to Florence, Italy, where I studied culinary arts and wine expertise. After a few stints working at wine bars, helping to launch a teaching restaurant in Italy, working the streets of Manhattan as a wine sales rep, and managing a store in the west village, I landed this gig. I haven't looked back once, except longingly for an amazing bottle of wine I had in Italy.
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
I got my ass kicked doing wine sales for an Italian importer and distributor in New York City. It was easily the hardest job I have ever done. There are a lot of mean people in this business. But the experience toughened me up in a way that continues to pay off to this day.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
Every day is a circus in here. Some days I'm processing and receiving 50 cases of 10 different wines. Some days I'm tasting what seems like 10 cases of 50 different wines. Other days I'm meeting with investors and presenting financial information to them. Other days I'm working with the team on new marketing and promotional ideas. There are days where it seems like I'm doing nothing but dealing with difficult customers. I try to combine those days with the wine tasting days.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Well, working with my best friend is pretty fantastic. And getting to drink wine on the job and call it “work” is awesome ... a bit dangerous ... but awesome. The day-to-day stories are also highly entertaining. You can't write some of the stuff that goes on in here.
What is the most challenging part?
The pressure to always make the right decision, with little or no guidance, and often with great consequence.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
You mean aside from the massive pay cut I originally took to do this? The hours and schedule can be rough. What is a holiday for most people is usually our busiest time. I'm a homebody. I like to cook and eat dinner at home and be with my family. This part of my life can suffer at times. It's also really hard to let things go when you are both the boss and so emotionally invested in something. There's no such thing as a real day off.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
I've learned that it is possible to be tough and fair at the same time. And that it's important to have your colleagues' backs. Working in a retail environment is like being part of a -- at times dysfunctional -- family. You have to look out for one other at all times. And, when things aren't right between two or more people, it can feel pretty tense. Solving that is paramount. Otherwise the business itself suffers.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
Believing that there are no challenges. Women are capable of greatness in any industry. They simply have to find the courage to demand their own success, no excuses.
Who are your role models?
My mother is my greatest role model. She is smart, resilient, driven and the owner of an amazing sense of humor. Not to mention pretty much everything I know about cooking, I learned from her. Culinary school was merely a formality.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
If you can laugh at yourself -- hard -- as often as possible, take responsibility for your mistakes, don't take anything too personally and always treat people fairly, you'll be OK. If you ever can't look yourself in the mirror, you're doing something very wrong.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Smell everything. Ask a lot of questions. Be brave.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think that just about covers it. If you live in the New York area, come visit us at the store. We've got something for you every day of the week -- “Spinning & Sipping” DJ nights, Wine & Wii, more free wine tastings than you can shake a stick at, a state-of-the-art wine tasting machine if you're not sick of wine after all the free tastings, wine classes, and the friendliest, best-looking staff around. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We've got online promotions going on all the time.