Malvina Robinson fell in love with champagne as a “breakfast college student”. That’s when she and her friends scrape together enough money to buy her a bottle or two for no particular reason, except for fun.
Since then she has had a goal. Create her own label and create a place where she can sample it.
In February 2020, Robinson, now 45, made his debut after more than 20 years on Wall Street. B. Stuyvesant Champagnenamed after the Brooklyn neighborhood in which she grew up.
On June 30th, she opened a 2,000-square-foot tasting space and headquarters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. So she’s started hosting regular “booze and chats” that feature her bubbly, and hopes to host other events in the near future, including an intimate wedding.
Robinson built the business from scratch. Not only did she do all the footwork herself, she also raised all of her funding. “I have no investors, no venture capital money. This is all me,” she said. Her products are produced in Epernay, France, part of the Champagne region of France, and imported to the United States. The brand now offers several types of Champagne, including Reserve, Grand Reserve and Rosé.
As one of the few black women to own a champagne label, she is distrusted by some of her peers. “When I go to shows, people ask me, ‘Is this really champagne?’” she says.
As she says, entrepreneurs have had little time to entertain skeptics. Robinson debuted a line of glassware this year while completing her headquarters. Anivram Dining CollectionShe’s partnered with lower Manhattan chocolatier Roni-Sue’s Chocolates to create a variety of B. Stuyvesant champagne-infused truffles. And she plans to introduce branded vending machines stocked with her products.
“This has not been an easy road for me,” she said. “But if you build it, they will come. Be consistent in your business practices and goals and it will work.”
What was it like to start and run the business?
I had no one to turn to when I was working on this. I’m a woman I am black. To be honest, I didn’t trust many people because they turned my back on me. “This is not your field. This is not your arena. This is not what you are good at.” And that’s really what I did.
I was laid off from three or four vineyards. I was fine with that. I saw that, this is not the right one for me. Then I met a vineyard owner. She was open to what I wanted to do and that’s what I love about her.
Some people judge by looks alone. So you have to prove yourself. I’m not a standard so it’s always tested. When retailers reach out, the first thing they say is, “Why should I buy B. Stuyvesant?” Say, “You have the option to buy whatever you like.” I don’t call my brand “I’m a woman” or “I’m black.” I lead product quality.
Describe your vision for the headquarters and tasting space.
I designed my own. The walls are navy blue. Because it’s the label color of our signature cuvée, Grand Reserve, the first cuvée I’ve stepped forward with. I laid a new floor. We are in the Navy Yard, an old building. This place had a very interesting look. Gray walls and not clean. We put time and money into space.
When people attend an event, we want it to be an experience. No two events are the same. I will guide everyone through the tasting. I will talk about my adventures in France and suggest other champagnes. There are many nice champagnes.
What more should people know about champagne?
Drinking from the wrong glass will not give you the full experience. If you drink from the coupe, the foam will disappear. The foam actually has a scent that enhances the taste. A tulip glass or a common white wine glass can be opened, but it is recommended because it is not too wide. Allow the champagne to breathe, but not too open so that the cuvée heats up too quickly and runs out too quickly.
Have you ever wanted to give up?
I experience this all the time. I was also nervous when creating this new space. I was scared because it costs a lot of money to create a beautiful space. When business is slow, sometimes I get a little nervous, like, “Oh my god, it’s getting late.” Every business has cycles.
I go through those feelings. But I get excited when I see people celebrating with champagne. In this past two weeks she has requested champagne at her three weddings.
Do you have a lot of wedding requests?
You will be asked to make boxes for your guests, bridesmaids and groomsmen. Last year we had a champagne toast at our New Year’s Eve wedding and asked for a larger bottle. Given.
Why do you think champagne is synonymous with weddings?
People think champagne is festive. You’re popping this bottle, you see the bubbles, the fizz, you’re cheering.
For me it could be opened at any time. I drink it all at once.
What will you toast to in 10 years?
We toast to B. Stuyvesant’s full expansion across the United States and around the world. we just enjoy it. It took many years to get to this point. Sipping a glass from the Anivram Dining Collection. In 10 years, he’ll also toast the NBA to pick B. Stuyvesant to celebrate their championship game victory. That’s what we toast to.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.