In the past year, wine shops in New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have all opened their doors to visitors.
But some are thriving despite the tough economic times.
“Wineshops in these places are very vibrant,” said Anne Rauch, a researcher at the Institute for Creative Economy at UC Berkeley who has written about the industry.
The industry has seen a surge in visits as the government tries to encourage more people to buy local.
The federal government has launched a $300 million program to help small- and medium-sized businesses to make purchases in stores and online.
But the program has also attracted criticism.
It’s unclear whether the government will keep up with the demand.
The government said last week it was “encouraging” people to shop online, but that’s not exactly encouraging shoppers.
There’s been a lot of focus on “bigger” retailers, including Whole Foods Market, which has raised its prices a bit in the last year, said Chris Anderson, Whole Foods executive vice president.
“We have a great customer service team,” he said.
Anderson said Whole Foods had “very positive reviews” of the program, which he called “a very good investment.”
Some small-business owners say they aren’t getting a good deal.
“The perception is that the biggest chains are getting a bigger slice of the pie, and they’re just getting ripped off,” said Sarah Pritchard, a spokeswoman for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents more than 6,000 small businesses.
In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that the average annual revenue of a small business is about $3,000.
“I think it’s an overreaction,” Pritcher said.
The program helps some businesses, but it’s not the whole story, said Michael Dorn, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.
The main reason is that many of the shops are owned by larger companies that are more heavily invested in the local community, he said, so the benefits don’t necessarily extend to small business owners.
“They’re getting a bit of a discount.
The big chains are just getting more and more aggressive,” Dorn said.
“It’s not as if you can walk into a big box store and say, ‘I’ll go to a big-box store.'”
For now, that’s all a little too optimistic.
“When I look at the data, we’re going to see some of these shops close down,” said Rauach.
“And some of them will continue to exist.”
But the economy is getting better, said Anderson.
He expects the program will eventually be extended to other types of retailers.
“There’s a real opportunity for businesses to continue to thrive in this area,” he added.
For now though, that looks like a long way off.
The WSJ’s Aaron Thorpe contributed to this report.