The boutique shop at number 4 Heeley St, Paddington, near the intersection known as Five Ways, has been owned and operated by Ian and Prue Cook since its beginning. Their son Ches is now also working there.
In the era of big-box booze warehouses, this personal style of business is becoming ever scarcer. On March 18, which just happened to be a very thirsty day of record March temperatures in Sydney, the Cook family invited their many long-term wine industry supporters to a backyard party. The timing was quirky for another reason: it was mid-vintage for many winemakers, but they came along regardless, some travelling from interstate. It was a fine tribute to the Cooks and the great business they have built up.
Among them were winemakers whose products Five Way Cellars has championed for decades, people such as Stephen and Rhonda Doyle of in Orange; John Thomson of , western Victoria; Dean Hewitson of in the Barossa; Michael Hill Smith of in the Adelaide Hills; Hunter Valley winemakers Iain Riggs of , Ian , and Andrew . Importer/wholesalers Michael Trembath of , David Burkitt of and Scott Wasley of were all there in person, underlining the importance of imported wines to the shop. Five Way Cellars has long been among Sydney’s leading Italian wine specialists, although Spain, France, Germany, Austria and other countries also figure strongly on its shelves.
Like Doctor Who’s Tardis, appearances can be deceptive, and the wonder to any first-time visitor is that so much great wine can be purveyed through such tiny premises. As Ian acknowledges, the size of the shop acted as a useful limiter on the business getting out of his control. It’s no handicap that the converted terrace house is well located for diners patronising the many local restaurants.
As with any independent wine retailing business, it’s the personality of the proprietor that’s the main ingredient of success. That includes long hours of being on the shop floor and answering the phone. Ian Cook has always known that wine is a people business. He’s been fortunate to have assistants like Todd Slater by his side. Son Ches is fast learning the ropes, so the future looks assured for a while yet.
In the era of big-box booze warehouses, this personal style of business is becoming ever scarcer. They need the support of true wine lovers.