Salud, Amor y Tiempo! Addictive Boutique Brings a Touch of Spain to Jackson Heights
East Elmhurst’s commercial lifeblood courses through Northern Boulevard, a bustling corridor of Latin American eateries, small businesses and car dealerships. At the corner of 87th Street, two improbable entrepreneurs have established a tranquil haven for local wine connoisseurs.
When I stop by Addictive Boutique Winery, proprietors Francisco Diaz and Patrick Duong are preparing for a routine Friday night wine tasting.
“I moved to Jackson Heights twenty years ago when I started attending FIT,” says Diaz. “I fell in love with the neighborhood. I never left.”
Diaz initially envisioned the boutique as a clothing store. After several months of poor sales, an employee suggested converting to a wine shop.
“I did not want to open a liquor store, so we decided to focus solely on small-batch wines,” says Diaz. In the same year, Diaz trained to become a certified sommelier. “It was a big change and a huge commitment but we were ready.”
Addictive began with a focus on Spanish wines in large part due to Diaz’s partnership with neighboring Despaña Brand Foods, a family-owned chorizo manufacturer and Spanish culinary goods importer since 1971.
“They taught me about the industry and helped me build connections back when I knew nothing,” said Diaz. “They are great neighbors and great friends.”
The diversity of the neighborhood is reflected in Addictive’s inventory. “We focus on smaller producers, often family estates,” says Duong. “We cannot compete with discount liquor stores, but this affords us the freedom to showcase under-recognized growing regions. We introduce customers to wines from Hungary, Uruguay, Lebanon, that they may have never even heard of before.”
Within a year of opening the shop, a neighboring landlord reached out to Diaz, encouraging him to open a Spanish-style tapas bar in an empty storefront across the street. By 2017, Addictive Wine and Tapas had grown so popular that Diaz decided to move to an adjacent space on the corner of Northern Boulevard, transforming the original 275-square-foot space into a beer bar.
“I designed all three of our locations. The signage, the interiors, everything,” explains Diaz, who is a trained interior designer.
Diaz’s interiors showcase thematic kitsch – wine glass chandeliers and a sign made of corks – upon a cozy backdrop of wood and soft light.
“At first we were surprised by the success of the tapas bar,” Diaz tells me. “We use traditional cooking techniques, like using wine instead of oil. Most of our chorizo and cheese are sourced from our neighbors at Despana. We are the only restaurant in the area to have two sommeliers on staff. Addictive’s customer base is supportive, diverse, and quality-conscious. It is reminiscent of our neighborhood.”
“I knew nothing about wine five years ago,” adds Duong, who maintains a day job as a computer programmer in Manhattan. “I’m an IT guy; Francisco taught me everything. I’m putting in tons of time between the two jobs but I’m doing what I love on both fronts.”
Duong has recently been exercising his own creative mix at Addictive Bahn Mi and Beer, which now occupies the tapas bar’s original space.
“I’m half-Vietnamese, so I’m very picky about these sandwiches. I tried 40 types of baguette before I settled on the right one. They are delivered fresh daily,” proclaims Duong. “I pickle the carrots and daikon in-house using my mom’s recipe. We import the pate from France. We are very serious about ingredients.”
Presently, Addictive Bahn Mi and Beer sells around twenty bottled and canned craft beers and ciders, with plans to install a draft system later this year.
Before I leave, I speak with Luis Moya, general manager of Tempranillo Distributors Inc., about the current state of the neighborhood.
“I moved to Astoria in 1997 - I had a feeling it would be unrecognizable in twenty years, and I was right. Every neighborhood evolves, but in Jackson Heights the changes are small and mostly positive, like improvements in safety. The types of people who lived here twenty years ago still call this place home, and this business reflects the area’s legacy of diversity and inclusiveness. Just look at Patrick and Francisco. Where else is this possible?”