The liquor license for The Wine Shop – the last piece to fall into place for “the business to be mine,” he says – was granted to its new owner, Joe Maloney, on July 27.
“We were closed for just one day,” Maloney said, “just enough time to replace the old carpet!”
Maloney took over management of the New Scotland Avenue institution, founded in 1933 by Mortimer Schwartz, in January 2018. A Culinary Institute of America-certified executive chef for more than 30 years, Maloney achieved certified Wine Professional status, also at the CIA, as he explored a shift in his career path and “found a new passion” in vino.
When a friend reached out to him about a management-to-ownership opportunity at The Wine Shop following the sudden death of its longtime owner Jim Ryan, Maloney said he was intrigued.
“The shop itself gave the impression of a collection of dusty bottles—and more dust than bottles,” he recalled. “But then we went down to the cellar, to a trove of rare burgundies and the like. Even if I couldn’t bring the store back to its heyday, it was a great opportunity to work with some incredible wines and learn from them.”
Two years later, the shop is thriving again on New Scotland’s restaurant row between Ontario and Quail, and a new addition is a vibrant new mural that Maloney commissioned as a “thank you” to the community.
“Revenues have been up about 40 percent year-to-date over last year,” Maloney said. “While this was fantastic for us as new owners, it felt very strange to benefit from the coronavirus lockdown and the frightening situation that the pandemic created. Then there was the temporary closure of some of the other liquor stores in the area during the unrest in June. It felt like everyone was on edge. Community is what makes this store happen, and I wanted to find a way to give back, in a way that would be inclusive, not polarizing or political.”
Direct community support first took the form of two fundraisers run by the shop, which donated the proceeds to Citizen Action and to Focus Interfaith Food Pantries. But Maloney also wanted to do something more permanent to say to his customers, neighbors and the community at large: “We are with you.”
Before the ownership transfer became final, and with permission from Ryan’s estate, Maloney commissioned the mural to fill the blank space next to the Wine Shop sign.
Maloney has a vague sense of what he wanted, but recognized that art is “not a language I speak,” so he asked the Albany Art Guild and some customers with connections to the Albany art scene for artist recommendations.
After interviewing several candidates and looking at samples of their work, he chose local multimedia artist and University at Albany graduate Chip Fasciana to create the mural, explaining: “He has a signature style that I thought would fit well, but he also respected what I thought would look good.”
A photograph that Maloney’s wife, Kay, had seen online, of pairs of children’s hands forming a heart, inspired the theme of the work.
“I strive to convey a positive attitude and a hopeful feeling in all of my work,” Fasciana said, “using images that can speak to everyone and incorporate the place where the art will reside.” As he interpreted Maloney’s idea, he added, “it was during the rise of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. I wanted not to be political, but to create a positive image that emphasizes community. I’m an animal lover, so that symbolism is incorporated here as well, with the owl symbolizing perseverance, and the hummingbirds joyfulness.”
With help from the Albany Art Room’s Karen Schupack, he recruited kids from neighborhood families to help create the handprints that make up the heart of the mural. And Fasciana used reclaimed materials put to the curb by neighborhood businesses in creating the stencils for the mural’s textures.
“Upcycling and recycling is near and dear to me,” Fasciana explained, adding that he is currently working on a show that will feature sculptures of birds inspired by Albany’s “bird streets,” constructed from found materials.
Community helped build these birds, too, with art students from the College of St. Rose and Center Square neighborhood artists taking part in bringing Fasciana’s designs to life. When the time is right, he plans to start work again on a community youth art program in Rensselaer County, developing large scale upcycling ideas and transforming recyclables into public art.
A wine tasting party to celebrate the unveiling of the New Scotland Avenue mural, which Fasciana titled “Perseverance II,” was planned by The Wine Shop, but the restrictions of the pandemic have put that on hold. For now, it’s a moving, glowing and welcome addition to the block and to the burgeoning local public art scene.
The Wine Shop is located at 265 New Scotland Ave., Albany.
Chip Fasciana’s sculpture, paintings, and large-scale public art installations have been exhibited around the world and may be seen in various venues in the Capital District, including Albany Center Galleries, 15 Middleburgh Street in Troy, the Pine Bush Preserve Discovery Center, the SEFCU corporate headquarters, and the Albany Downtown Dog Park.
He divides his time making public art between Albany and San Diego, California. An online gallery of his work is available on Instagram with the tag @ferdbot, and a video documenting the creation of “Perseverance” is at https://www.facebook.com/erin.pihlaja.1/videos/2417384995189738