Gaux Girl - Joey Wölffer2019-06-28
Summer must be Joey Wölffer’s season. Between her family business running Long Island’s Wölffer Estates — home to the aptly named “Summer in a Bottle” rosé — and her eponymous perfect-for-vacation-packing boutiques, she’s made a career in catering to our warm-weather dreams. Wine aside, it’s the latter that really gives you a window into this gaux-getter's stellar personal style.
She’s mastered the art of modern bohemian dressing, with a penchant for vivid prints and bold silhouettes. Her fashion sensibilities have informed the pieces stocked in her Hamptons and Palm Beach stores, plus the boutique-on-wheels Styleliner truck, and it’s easy to picture her wearing all of it no matter what part of the country she’s in.
We caught up with the multi-hyphenate to hear her best career advice, plus the ways outside passions (did we mention she’s a serious equestrian?) can teach you lessons applicable for all aspects of life.
You spent some of your childhood summers helping your father at the vineyard. What were the most important lessons he taught you about business?
I actually never worked at the vineyard. My parents felt it was important for me to work for other people. I am really grateful for that becauseI learned to be held accountable by someone other than my family! My Dad always encouraged me to start my own business. He was always proud of me as I climbed the corporate ladder in the fashion world, but he always asked me to keep working on my big idea. The greatest thing I learned from my father was to take a chance, especially when that means betting on yourself.
Talk about the moment you decided to leave the corporate world to pursue building your own company. Was it a decision you deliberated over or did you have immediate clarity that it was the right move?
I worked at my last corporate job for a year after my Dad passed away. I remember thinking what is it that I dream of? Do I want to be my boss? Do I aspire to be the president of this company? And I always thought "NO, that's not for me". I remember quitting to the President of my last job (who also happened to be a mentor). When I told her that I was leaving and told her about what was then "The Styleliner", she was thrilled for me. She told me I didn't belong in the corporate bubble and that she was proud of me for taking a leap. She was a serious factor in my confidence to do my own thing. I am so grateful for my time in the corporate world becauseI learned so much. I always advise young people to work for someone else before you take the leap into your own business.
The concept of the Styleliner truck takes a pop-up to the next level. Were there any lessons you learned about planning or operations by having a roving storefront?
Too many to write here! There were no guidelines to starting a mobile store, I had to make them up myself. That was one of the biggest challenges. I broke down on the highway too many times to even count, I missed trunk shows because of traffic jams, I got ticketed by the police, I lugged 10 suitcases of product from my truck to my apartment during hurricane Sandy and the list goes on. All that taught me that nothing is impossible and to keep trying if at first you don't succeed.
Owning your own boutique is a dream so many fashion-lovers have. Is the reality just as fun as one would hope?
Like everything, it has its ups and downs. When I am in the prime of my seasons, I love it. When times are slower, I panic and start questioning myself. I think it keeps you on your toes. The biggest challenge is to stay fresh and innovative. With access to social media and the internet, anyone can take your concept and make it their own. You always have to be innovating.
How has your dedication to and experience in showjumping affected the way you pursue your career?
I love this question. I absolutely believe that my experience in showjumping has made me the entrepreneur that I am. In riding, you can be at the top of your game and at the lowest point all within a day. You can never be too proud because you will be put in your place at some point. This is exactly how business is! One day you're a hero and the next day you're dealing with a customer who is tearing you to pieces! Nothing is ever exactly the way you want it to be and in both riding and your career, you learn to accept where you are in that moment!
Between your boutiques and the various arms of the Wolffer empire, your time must be in high demand. How do you divide your focus and make sure everything gets the attention it deserves?
I have the best support. I have incredible people running my stores as well as a Killler team at the winery and the restaurants. My husband runs the Wölffer business and he is doing an incredible job. I make sure that I give my time in all places I am needed; and when I'm not working or riding, I'm 100% with my kids. They are the reason I get up in the morning with a big smile on my face (sorry for the cheesiness!).
What would you define as your biggest career failure and success?
My biggest failure has been getting involved with 2 women I shouldn't have, but I will also say they have been my biggest lesson so far as well. My biggest success (along with my teams of amazing co-workers) has been growing all my businesses by at least 30% each year.
What does being a girl on the gaux mean to you?
Comfortable, confident and ready to face whatever is coming my way!
Photos by Heather Holt for Margaux