By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — A neighborly connection between two local business owners has helped to add sophistication and variety to both Tesoros Cafe on Upper Union Street and Capoccia Vineyards & Winery on Balltown Road.
It started as a conversation between old friends when Gloria Herman and Rossana Capoccia ran into each other at the grocery store. Herman, who opened Tesoros in 2012, complained that her customers often wished for a glass of wine with dinner.
“I said, ‘I don’t have a liquor license. I don’t know if I can get it,’ ” Herman recalled.
But Capoccia, whose family vineyard just added retail capability at the end of May, had already jumped through the legal hoops required to sell wine. She suggested the two partner.
“We just said it’d be a great little partnership, a winery cafe,” said Capoccia, who has enjoyed visiting winery cafes in Saratoga and other areas, but didn’t know of any similar opportunities close to her Niskayuna home. The family’s liquor license allows for two satellite locations, of which Tesoros is now one.
“It just happened that we know each other; we trust each other,” Herman said. They’ve been friends for more than 20 years.
Herman said the friends-turned-business-partners’ chance meeting happened only six or seven months ago, and by October, Capoccia’s wine was officially available from the cafe.
“So far it’s going really well,” Herman said.
Since the liquor license belongs to Capoccia, not Herman, sales of wine have to be processed separately from food, even if a customer’s glass and plate are side-by-side on the table. This means separate registers and separate checks for each part of the order. But so far, Herman said, customers haven’t minded the extra step.
“These past three months have been a lot busier for us on weekends,” she said.
There is, of course, nothing bad about extra business. But Tesoros faces another challenge, which is that the kitchen is relatively small. To avoid long wait times for customers after they order food, Herman had another creative idea: She chose to sell Spanish appetizers, called tapas, alongside the Capoccia family wines.
So far, customer reception has been strong.
“I can see the business picking up,” Herman said. “This past three months have been a lot busier for us on weekends.”
Capoccia said the partnership has helped her sales, too. The winery is closed in the winter, largely because of the family’s steep driveway, which can be risky when it gets icy. Even when open, the business is only licensed for sales, not tasting, since the property doesn’t have a public bathroom.
“It’s helped us both,” Capoccia said.
Herman said her challenge now is helping people find their way into Tesoros, where they can sip a glass of local wine — perhaps while learning to dance salsa or sparking a romance. To help drum up customers, Tesoros has been hosting more events, including weekly Latin dance lessons and open mic nights. On April 2, they’ll host a “slow dating” event: like speed dating, but presumably less awkward.
“We’ll see what happens,” Herman said.