A winery and a market complement each other in Ventnor
Vanessa Wong isn’t afraid to embark on new adventures, and neither are her daughters, whom she calls her “Wahines” (pronounced waa-hee-nee, Polynesian slang for female surfers). The girls, 7 and 9, are always ready for the waves.
“I was inspired by them to dive straight into what I wanted to do,” Wong says.
In 2016, Wong opened Fishtown Social, a wine bar and retail store in Philadelphia. But Wong grew up in New Jersey, and when she moved her family back to the Garden State that same year, she wondered what she wanted to see in her new Jersey Shore town of Ventnor.
On July 1, Wong opened two stores next to each other in Ventnor: Wahine Wine Company and Fish market and whistles. The two businesses complement each other, as one stocks local and natural wines, while the other offers local baked goods, cheeses, jams and more.
“The more we support each other in the community, the more everyone thrives,” says Wong.
How did you get into these jobs?
My parents owned truck stops and restaurants [when I was] growing up in Kearney and Jersey City. During my undergrad and law school, I spent a lot of time working in clubs, bars and fine dining restaurants. It was kind of in my blood and I just gravitated towards it.
What made you walk away from the law?
It was just a beautiful mess. My husband and I moved to Fishtown and we thought, “What would we like to see in the neighborhood?” We worked downtown and met in Washington Square at Tria, a restaurant we always went to. This is how we created a wine bar, Fishtown Social. It was a cool neighborhood bar that had a long list of food by the glass.
When did you return to Jersey?
I love the beach, so we ended up at the Shore. During Covid, we retailed at Fishtown Social, and realized that was something people really liked. We thought, “How can we make all these wines accessible in Jersey? Ventnor is pretty cool, and it was kind of like, “What’s missing here?”
You opened Wahine Wine Company and Fish & Whistle Market on July 1. How’s it going ?
It was bananas! People walking through the door are so excited to have us and to see something new. People like to invest in their municipality.
Next to Wahine is a market (Fish & Whistle) which offers many local artisan products like groceries, cheeses and charcuterie. It complements the wine nicely and brings a bit more energy to the avenue than just a liquor store.
Do you have a favorite local item?
I’m still looking for my favorite Jersey wine! We work with a local baker, Alfia, from Vestal Life, and she makes amazing vegan baked goods. Apple cider donuts, pound cake – and she drops them off every Friday. We have a guy called Jim from Jim’s Jams who has his own blueberry in Jersey. Many of our natural wines are unfiltered, so we also have vegan wine options.
Why is it important for you to store local products?
As we help others, the neighborhood grows around us. It’s not just the big companies around; they are friends and neighbors, and we all try to support each other.
What are you waiting for this summer?
We had it in the pipeline and I’m excited to do it: [We’re] deployment of a very reasonable wine club. Pickup will happen once a month, and when you pick up it will be a club member event with things like free cheese tastings or wine tastings. We’ll even make fire pits and s’mores for the kids. We want to create a space for people to come together in the community.
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