VENTNOR, NJ - In 2016, Vanessa Wong opened Fishtown Social, a natural wine shop and bar that has seen great success in a vast area of Philadelphia with growth and development. Now, she’s expanding on that success and looking towards the Jersey Shore for her next two ventures.
On Friday, July 1, Wong will open the doors to Wahine Wine Company and Fish & Whistle Market. The two new businesses will be next door to each other in a newly constructed building at 101 N. Dorset Avenue near the foot of the Dorset Avenue Bridge in Ventnor, NJ. Wahine Wine Company will be similar to Fishtown Social, with the shelves stocked with natural wines and craft spirits and beers thanks to New Jersey’s liquor laws. Fish & Whistle Market will be a gourmet market focused on bringing regional and Philly-made brands to the shore, including everything from cheese to charcuterie, to freshly prepared foods to produce and groceries. The market will also partner with several local and Philadelphia-based small businesses to host pop-ups and taste events throughout the year.
“Anybody who knows me knows that I love the beach. The ocean is and has always been my happy place, my respite,” said Wong. “It’s also no secret that operating under the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board makes it incredibly difficult to accomplish what I originally set out to do in Fishtown, which is to make good wine approachable and accessible for everyone. Thus, a location at the Jersey Shore where there is no state-run retail liquor system is a no-brainer. There is so much more wine available at a significantly lower cost. I just need to find time to taste it all.”
As a business owner and natural wine expert, Wong wants her customers to feel good about what they drink at the shore. Her new shop will offer bottles, cans, boxes, and bags of natural, organic, and biodynamic wines that you won’t find anywhere else (besides Fishtown Social, of course). The wines Wong will supply are made with care, minimal intervention, and no additives. The shop and the market will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, closed only on Tuesdays.
As to why she decided to name her store Wahine (‘waa-hee-nee’) Wine Company, Wong said the inspiration came from her two daughters, ages 7 and 9.
“Wahine is often used as a term for a female surfer,” said Wong. “I have two little wahines of my own who love the ocean and have fearlessly taken to surfing. They’re brave, spunky, and beautiful inside and out, and as their mom, I hope to model courage, hard work, sacrifice, and gratitude. Years ago, I chose to pursue what I love, so I dove into the male-dominated wine world without any previous experience. I had no fancy certifications and, naively, no fear. Fast-forward six years, and here I am doing it all over again. The first time was for me. This time, it’s for my wahines.”
As for the market, Wong said that opening a market in addition to the wine shop was not an easy decision, but it came down to what made the most sense from a business standpoint. “There’s only one of me and not enough hours in the day. When I created the Fishtown Social concept, I asked myself what the neighborhood was missing and what would benefit the commercial corridor the most. Adding a gourmet market concept to compliment Wahine Wine Company is something unique that doesn’t exist on the island. My goal is to generate even more energy for Ventnor and the surrounding areas, which is good for everyone.”