Business is booming.

In Brooklyn, Her Champagne Wishes Came True

Marvina Robinson fell in love with champagne as a “broken student” when she and her friends scraped together enough money to buy a few bottles for no particular reason other than to enjoy them.

From then on, she had one goal: to create her own label, along with a place to taste it.

In February 2020, after more than two decades working on Wall Street, Mrs. Robinson, now 45 years old, made her debut B. Stuyvesant Champagnenamed after the Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up.

On June 30, she opened a 2,000-square-foot tasting room and headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she regularly hosts “sip and chats” with her bubbly, and hopes to host other events soon, including intimate weddings.

Ms. Robinson has built her business from the ground up. Not only did she do all the footwork herself, she also took care of all the financing. “I have no investors, no venture capital, this is all me,” she said. Its product is produced in Epernay, France, part of the Champagne region of the country, and imported to the United States. The brand now offers different types of champagne, including reserve, grand reserve and rosé.

As one of the few black women to have a champagne label, she was greeted with disbelief by some peers. “When I go to shows, I get asked, ‘Is this really champagne?'” she said, adding: “I just learned to block it.”

The entrepreneur, she says, has had little time to entertain skeptics. While completing her headquarters this year, Ms. Robinson debuted a line of glassware, the Anivram Dining Collection. She teams up with chocolatier Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, in lower Manhattan, to create truffles infused with various B. Stuyvesant champagnes. And she has plans to introduce a branded vending machine filled with her product.

“This has not been an easy road for me,” she said. “But if you build it, they will come. You just have to be consistent with your business practices and your goals, and it will get out of hand at some point.”

I had no one to turn to when I was working on this. I am a woman. I am black. Frankly, I didn’t trust many people because I was rejected by so many. I got so many negative comments like, “This isn’t your field. This isn’t your arena. This isn’t what you’re good at.” I just said, “Okay, I’ll just have to figure this out myself.” And that’s really what I did.

I was fired from three or four vineyards. I thought that was okay; I looked at it, this is not the right one for me. Then I met a vineyard owner and I actually liked her because she would answer all my questions. She was open to the things I wanted to do and that’s what I loved about her.

There are people who judge you by how you look. So you have to prove yourself. I will always be tested because I am not the norm. Even when retailers reach out, the first thing they say is, “Why should we buy B. Stuyvesant?” I say, “You have the opportunity to buy whatever you want.” I don’t run my brand with ‘I’m a woman’ or ‘I’m Black’. I lead with the quality of the product.

I designed it myself: the walls are navy blue, because that’s the color of the label for our grand reserve, our signature cuvée, the first cuvée I’ve moved on to. We have laid new floors. We’re at the Navy Yard, in an old building. This place looked very interesting: gray walls, not pretty. We invest time and money in space.

When people come to an event, we want it to be an experience. No two events are the same. I guide everyone through the tastings. I tell about my adventures in France, I even propose other champagnes. There are so many beautiful champagnes.

Drinking from the wrong glass will not give you the full experience. If you drink from a compartment, you lose your bubbles. The bubbles actually have aroma and enhance the taste. You should use a tulip glass or a standard white wine glass as it opens but is not too wide. It lets the champagne breathe, but it’s not too open where your cuvée heats up quickly or goes flat quickly.

I walk through this all the time. Even building this new space I was nervous. I was afraid because it is so expensive to build a beautiful space. Sometimes when things go slow, I get a little nervous, “Oh my gosh, it’s slowing down.” Every business has a cycle.

I go through those emotions. But then I watch people celebrating with the champagne, and I get excited. We had three weddings in the last two weeks asking for our champagne.

People ask us to make boxes for their guests or for the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Last year we had a New Years Eve wedding where they toasted the champagne and wanted some bigger bottles. At another wedding, each guest receives a bottle of champagne in a wooden box with their own stamp.

People think champagne is a party. You pop this bottle, you see the bubbles, the fizz, you cheer. So it goes hand in hand.

But for me it can be opened at any time. It’s a go-to drink.

We toast to B. Stuyvesant expanding fully across the United States and the world. We just enjoy that. It took us years to get to this point. And we sip glasses from the Anivram Dining Collection. In 10 years we will also toast to the NBA that B. Stuyvesant has chosen to celebrate the victory of the championship. We’re going to try that.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.