Monty and Kamini Lalwani opened the first Ocean Wine & Spirits a decade ago in 2013. The store, at Sunrise Boulevard and A1A, catered to tourists and beachgoers with the kinds of drinks those groups are known to knock back.
A decade, three additional stores, an app-based ordering revolution and a pandemic later, some things have changed. The newest Ocean opened last summer at Oakland Park Boulevard and Bayview Drive, which for the Lalwanis counts as “inland.” It’s the first Ocean aimed squarely at a locals market and focuses more on fine wines and regular customers with, among other things, regular in-store events. The business has also been at the forefront of online ordering. Before the rise of apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub, Ocean launched app-based ordering and delivery. For the Lalwanis, it’s been a recipe, or a cocktail mix, for success.
The delivery side of the business was present from the beginning, largely by necessity. The first location had virtually none of its own parking; even with a customer base that was 70 percent tourists, that wasn’t going to work. Online ordering grew organically from there; by the time it began exploding in the wider world, Ocean already had their system established.
The first store “quickly turned into a powerhouse,” and the Lalwanis began looking for expansion opportunities. But their business plan always involved staying near the sound of crashing waves.
Monty, Kamini explains, was “born and raised on Fort Lauderdale Beach, he grew up there, his family had businesses on the beach. He’s known tourism his whole life.” All four Ocean locations are within a mile of each other.
They’ve never tried to be a price leader; that doesn’t really work with the business model’s geography.
“We just listen to our customers and give them what they want,” Kamini says. “Our pricing is our pricing because we are on the beach. You don’t have to go far; you get everything as a one-stop shop. There is pretty much anything you can think of when you want to make a cocktail on the beach. It’s really a convenience-based business.”
The opening of the Oakland-and-Bayview location came when they were selling another location, in Wilton Manors.
“My husband’s always looking for growth, but it’s got to be right for us,” Kamini says. “Being that far away from the beach wasn’t our niche.” At the Bayview location, the emphasis on wine goes far enough that they’ve brought in a director of wine. Veronica Litton has more than 30 years experience in the fine wine world, Kamini says.
“The selection of wine that we have there is incredible,” Kamini says. “Her knowledge and passion for wine is the perfect marriage for that store.”
She’s also led the charge for more in-store events, which include monthly tastings and private events. They’ve even hosted a birthday party.