Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Norm's Beer and Wine Faces Non-Compete Challenge

Is this a case of the big guy versus the little guy? Norm's Beer and Wine has been a destination in Vienna, VA since 1988. It's the "go to" retail store for Northern Virginia craft beer fans. I've made the drive from Fredericksburg several times for beer that wasn't available locally.

The trouble for Norm's apparently started when the supermarket chain Fresh Market decided to move into the empty space next door. The property landlord offered Fresh Market a non-compete clause for beer and wine which will force Norm's out of the shopping center. Vienna Patch brings us the story:
Norm Yow, the shop’s owner, said he was initially excited when he heard the national supermarket chain Fresh Market was going to open a location right next to his store at 136 Branch Ave. in Vienna.  The lot had been vacant for two years, and Yow believed increased traffic to the strip mall would improve his already thriving business. His landlord, the Bethesda-based company Finmarc, even used the impending arrival of the gourmet chain store as justification to raise his rent at the end of 2008, he said.
But the anticipation turned to chagrin in mid-February, when Finmarc informed Yow that they’d offered Fresh Market, which intends to sell beer and wine, a non-compete clause that would force Norm’s out of the location its been in for 13 years.
Although much of the online "anger" is directed against Fresh Market, some observers note that it was Norm's landlord Finmark who offered the non-compete clause as an incentive to Fresh Market. This story is probably more complex than it appears on the surface. In any event, it would be a great loss if Norm's were to close.

Fans of Norm's can show their support at the Save Norm's Beer and Wine Facebook page.
Read the entire Vienna Patch article here.

Update, May 11: Norm posted an update to the DC-Beer mailing list. I've reposted it here, with Norm's permission.

Thank you everybody for the support! I hope this can be resolved soon and we can just go back to normal!

I wish I could set the record straight, but I'm not really sure where the non-compete originated.  From speaking with one of the owners a couple of times, I've gotten the impression it was not something they were happy about doing, but the new tenant is the 400lb gorilla on the block. That gives me the impression that the idea came from Greensboro.  Also, Finmarc is the property manager, not the owner.  I don't know how much of a role they play in lease negotiations.  There's a company called StreetSense that handled the lease inquiries into the open spaces in the shopping center.  Also, at this point, the only party that can change the agreement is The Fresh Market.

If any news breaks, I'll try to pass it along ASAP.

Thanks again!

Stay tuned for updates as this unfolds. Also, there's now an (unofficial) Save Norm's Twitter feed that you can follow for updates.

Update, May 28: Fresh Market issues a statement saying they will work with Norm's.


  1. Norm's Beer and Wine (of the often-seen "NBW" auto oval decals) has been a go-to beer & wine shop in Vienna, Virginia, since the 1990s. In fact, back then, it was one of the ONLY such stores in northern Virginia: selection, proper care and handling of beer, knowledge of product (rare then, and often so these days), support of local beer, and just downright friendly people, all served in a non-chain store environment. The shop's landlord is refusing to renew the lease... but not because of anything Norm's has done. Quite the contrary: eponymous proprietor Norm Yow has been a quintessential local businessman and good beer guy.

  2. To register a complaint:

    1) Contact Fresh Market at its website (customer satisfaction form)

    2) Contact Andrea Smith, Fresh Market customer service, at
    myexperience@thefreshmarket.com, 1-336-272-1338, ext. 3079


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