Comedian and actress Amy Poehler has set up shop in Brooklyn — in Park Slope, to be precise.
Along with her two partners Amy Miles and Michael Robertson, she has opened Zula Wines and Spirits at 487 Fifth Ave., between 11th and 12th streets. While Poehler is a novice, her partners have considerable experience in wine retailing.
Poehler is best known for her time as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” from 2001 to 2008 and for her role as Leslie Knope on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” In 2012 she won a Critics Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and in 2014 she won a Golden Globe in the same category.
She has also voiced several animated feature films, including “Inside Out” and “Horton Hears a Who!” In 2016, she and Tina Fey both won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for “Saturday Night Live.” She is also one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a sketch and improv group based in New York and Los Angeles. In 2014 she became an author with her wise and delightful memoir “Yes Please,” which became a #1 New York Times bestseller.
On a recent, rainy Sunday afternoon I visited the store to meet Poehler and her two partners. With Christmas carols playing softly in the background, festive decorations on the wine shelves and a woman dressed up as Mrs. Claus, the shop had a genuine holiday vibe.
This was only enhanced by all the young children who had accompanied their parents and were munching on the gingerbread cookies on offer. Robertson told me that the store was set up to sell wines that are easy on the wallet. Even most of the Burgundy wines were in the $30-40 range.
Eventually I found Poehler standing in the back of the store mingling with customers. She wore a pale pink sweater, with lipstick to match, and held a glass of champagne. Seated behind her was her 11-year-old son Archie who was watching a movie on his smartphone. Poehler was relaxed and congenial and we chatted a bit about her involvement with the store, which has been open since late October. Since she wanted to be accessible to the customers she suggested we conduct the actual interview by telephone the next day.
I had the chance to ask Poehler, among other topics, what led her to her new role as wine merchant.
Below are edited excerpts of our conversation.
Brooklyn Eagle: What made you choose Brooklyn for your wine store?
Amy Poehler: I’ve been a New Yorker for 25 years. Although I’m still in Manhattan, it seems like all my friends have moved to Brooklyn. My partners Amy and Mike live in Brooklyn and we found an excellent location for the shop in Park Slope. So it all came together in Brooklyn.
Eagle: Why a wine store?
Poehler: A couple of reasons. Having worked as a waitress for many years I knew something about wine. Plus I like the fact that, in this age of internet shopping, a wine store is one of the last places left that shoppers spend quality time in. Wine stores are places where the staff still talks to you and you can linger and browse and learn. They’re [wine stores] sort of the last bastion of old-fashioned retailing. At Zula we have free wine tastings seven days a week and free delivery. We plan to be very customer-friendly.
Eagle: How did you meet your partners?
Poehler: Amy and Mike are talented singer-songwriters. I first met Amy 20 years ago when I made “Wet Hot American Summer.” We’ve been good friends ever since. I always said to them that if they ever started a business let me know. Mike has worked in wine retailing and when they told me about this opportunity I said I was in.
Eagle: How did you decide on the name “Zula”?
Poehler: Zula is what Amy calls her grandmother. There’s a photo of her in the store. She’s a regal presence. And it’s a catchy name.
Eagle: Finally, what’s your favorite wine?
Poehler: It varies. I tend to be more of a white wine person. And I like a bottle that doesn’t break the bank, something good but affordable. Now that the holidays are here I’m leaning more toward red wine.
Eagle: Any particular red?
Poehler: Whatever Mike picks for me. (Laughing) When it comes to wine I’m easy to please.
Zula Wines & Spirits is located at 487 Fifth Ave. in Park Slope. For more information go to zulawine.com or 718 832-5101.