Halloween is More Than Trick or Treat


Halloween has popped up in both our personal and business lives. Bonnie’s mother and Michael’s father were both born on Halloween. Somehow, we discovered we had this in common within an hour after we met. Also, the concept for the Barefoot wine label was developed at a Halloween street party in Santa Barbara.

Halloween has different meanings in different cultures. In ours, it’s all about trick or treat with witches and goblins, but our amigos in the Latin countries have a more significant approach to this auspicious holiday. They set a place at dinner to honor their dearly departed. With that in mind, we would like to remember two people who were instrumental in our success with Barefoot Wine.

Steve Rinetti was on in years when we hired him shortly after we started Barefoot Cellars. Back then, we really didn’t know anything about chain stores. Terms like category management, on deal, scan data, and set position meant little to us. But if we intended to sell America’s personal house wine, we had to find out – and fast!

Steve may have been “long in the tooth,” but he had over 30 years of management experience in the chain store wine industry. He provided us with insight, advice and direction that would have taken us years to gain on our own. Steve was a gentle spirit who sincerely appreciated this inexperienced wine business couple who had respect for his experience and gave him the opportunity to make good use of it.

Steve worked long hours and used all his connections to help us get into the chains. Thanks to him, we created our packaging, signage, and pricing to work efficiently with the chain store system. We eventually became experts at category management and other aspects of a brand’s success. Thanks, Steve! We miss you!

Don Brown had a different style altogether, but was just as much of a positive influence on Barefoot. He had an acrid manner that made some salespeople shake in their boots. He was the buyer for one of the top chain stores in northern California. After waiting hours to see him, he would hustle you in and out of his office in minutes. He was demanding and blunt. But Don was one of our mentors.

Before the first wine was in the bottle, we went to Don for advice. He told us the requirements for any new wine brand in about 30 seconds and then, citing his busy schedule, abruptly asked us to leave. But his suggestions helped make Barefoot wine a success.

When we went back to him with the finished product and asked for the order, he said he couldn’t put anything in that no one ever heard of. If we wanted to put a million bucks into advertising and make it a household word, then he’d consider it. Or, he said, we had to go out and sell it to every independent and get a reputation. Then, he might consider it. Then he showed us the door.

In the next two years, we discovered Worthy Cause Marketing and used that instead of paid advertising to get the word out. And, we sold it store by store for two years and began to make some headway. Eventually, Don put it in. He was rough around the edges, but he always did what he said he would do. We miss you, Don.

So who’s made a difference in your business that’s no longer with us? Give them some appreciation and honor them by setting a place for them this Halloween.


About Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

Starting in a laundry room with no money or industry knowledge, they built the iconic Best-Selling Barefoot Wine Brand - without advertising. In 2005, they monetized their brand equity and now offer proven business principles and real world experience. Visit our YouTube Channel →

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