Peter & Calvin

Peter & Calvin

Peter van der Zeeuw has lived nearly all his life in Leiden, and he’s worked in the wine and liquor business for 30 years. In 2008, he founded Wines and More, which now has three store locations in Leiden and Vlaardingen. Peter is a savvy businessman, and Wines and More is the ultimate family business. If you visit the Leiden stores, you’ll meet Peter, his brother Rob, and Peter’s sons Calvin and Damien. And then there’s Hans, a friend of Peter’s since childhood. I spoke with Peter and Calvin in October 2017 at their new store on Haarlemmerstraat.

Peter: “I’ve been in the liquor, wine industry for 30 years … I worked as a manager of a Gall & Gall in Wassanaar. That’s the only time I left Leiden … Wines & More was started nine years ago, in April 2008. And before that I [owned a] Gall & Gall franchise for almost 12 years” in Leiden.  

When he entered the industry “somebody working in a wine store or a liquor store had to have a special training, education. And nowadays [all] you have to have is your hygiene diploma, that’s it.”

In 1996, “Gall & Gall started a project turning stores [which weren’t running well] into franchises. First [the franchises] were offered to the guys in the store. But they weren’t such [poor] outlets for nothing. Most of the time they had lousy managers. And at that point I said I want to franchise [a store he had previously managed on Raamsteeg in Leiden]. I knew what was happening there. And the guy who had taken over [when Peter moved to the Gall & Gall location in Wassanaar] lost 40 percent of his turnover in three years after I left … that’s a good sign. (laughs) I knew I would be able to [regain these lost profits], and I had some more experience. I was doing some projects in my Gall & Gall time with local entrepreneurship. We were allowed to buy things we [predicted would sell] well in that specific market. So I had some contact with suppliers outside Gall & Gall. That made me more confident.”

“When I started [the Gall & Gall franchise store] in 1996, I started together with my wife Jeanet. Hans was involved from the start … I went to him and said ‘do you want to do my bookkeeping,’ and he said ‘yes.’ Hans was there from the start. Business was booming and after four years I needed to have someone [else] in the store. And Rob was fed up with his [job]. He was selling cheese. He still likes cheese (laughs) but he was fed up with the [cheese wholesaler] he worked for … so he decided to quit the job. And I said ‘why don’t you come and work with me, join the business. You don’t have to pay anything to get in. Work yourself into the company and we’ll do it together’ … We’re quite a social firm. Everyone is an associate.”

Peter has known Hans “since 1968. We lived in the same apartment building. We went to the same school. He’s a year older than I, so he was one level higher [in school]. We went to the same high school. We played korfbal at the same club. So we’ve known each other a long time.”

Peter didn’t plan to get into the wine store business: “I was enlisted in the army for a year, and I was working at a very good restaurant in Voorschoten. And I could have stayed there. At a certain point my brother Rob said ‘there’s an advertisement for a manager in a wine store in Leiden’ and I said ‘why not.’ And it turned out to be my profession.”

“I originate from the hotel business. And I’ve done hotel school. And in hotel school, you had a subject that’s called drinks and wine. And when you finish that with a B-plus you had your license. So I was licensed to start a wine store.”

Early exposure: “My father managed a restaurant near the station [where Stadscafe van der Werff is now located]. It used to be another restaurant, and we lived above the restaurant … My father had a private wine collection, and when I was 15 I was buying the wines for him. So there came my interest in wines.”

“My father bought [wines] at one certain place here in Leiden … which back then … had a lot of distribution in the hotel business. But they had a lot of private customers as well … The owner thought it was fun to have a 15-year-old in buying expensive wines, and he showed me the tricks of the business. He showed me the ropes.”

Wines and More opened its Haarlemmerstraat store in June 2017. The other Leiden store is located on Korevaarstraat, and the third Wines and More store is located in Vlaardingen. “We got that store by chance … my brother found a wine store on the Internet that was selling out its port range. And we were doing, and we are still doing, a lot of port. And it’s hard to get older vintage for a decent price. And [the owner of the Vlaardingen wine store] had quite a collection of old ports, and his prices were reasonable. And I thought why not, let’s see if we can make a deal.”

“And when I got [to the Vlaardingen wine store] it turned out he was closing his shop and he was going to retire. And while we were talking at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning he had customers in all the time. And he wasn’t able to sell his store, so he was just quitting. And his lease expired. And I thought why aren’t you able to sell your store if you’ve got 10 customers before 11 o’clock? … I wasn’t getting 10 customers in on an entire Wednesday morning [at the Leiden Wines and More store]. So I was asking about his figures, his gross and his net results, and who he was buying from. And I did some calculations, and I thought to myself this should have been a good store. But he was making losses for the last two years. And that’s because he didn’t pay attention to his costs … he was giving away a lot of money without getting anything back for it. And he paid too [much] for his products. And he had a lot of leakage in the form of stolen goods. And he was afraid in his own store.”


“He was desperate to sell. And somebody was offering him € 650 for his total inventory. And that was an inventory that cost € 50,000 10 years [earlier]. And he was planning to say yes to the offer …  Because he just wanted to get out … I went outside and sat on the terrace. The terrace is next to the store, and there were some big windows that were shut off by wooden panels … I gave two calls to suppliers and said ‘I have a great display [area] for you to advertise one of your major brands. I want a couple of hundred bottles for free for doing that.’ And they immediately said ‘yes.’ I called a couple of [banks] and told them that I was planning to take over a new store and I wanted to have some longer credit … they said ‘yes’ as well. Then I phoned Rob and Hans and I said ‘I think we have a great opportunity. I’m going to offer a very low amount to take over the business, if I can get a good price on the stock.’ And they said ‘yes.’ And at half past 11:00 … the deal was struck. We had another store. More than half of the price was paid by the two windows.”

Shoplifting is impossible to prevent: “Any shop keeper who says nothing is stolen in his place is lying … We try to keep the shelves all straight. So if a bottle disappears you notice. A good thief will spieghel we call it, mirror the shelf himself. But most of them don’t. So you notice that there’s something missing. I miss a couple of bottles a year, and with our turnover that’s nothing. But with us as well goods are stolen.”

The next generation: Calvin, 25, has worked alongside his father “since about the age of 13. I used to work on Saturdays and Sundays” when he was in school. Damien, 23, has also worked in wine stores since his early teens. “I’m a co-owner for about five years now.”

Calvin attended a school for entrepreneurs in Leiden. “But mostly I learned the business from my dad and from Hans … I did one wine course. That was about half a year ago. It was level one.”

Calvin enjoys working with customers to find the right wine. “I’ve tasted almost every wine that’s here ... And every year we go to our supplier. They have a tasting and we taste everything … in one day 200 wines or so … I take notes and remember a lot of stuff … file it away in the brain .. I like it. Wine is my thing.”

Peter: “I was 11 and doing dishes in the restaurant of my father. I was working on the terrace when I was 15. And we are interested in good food and good wines. [Calvin and Damian] were 13, 14 when they had sips of wine. I let them taste. Taste this, what do you taste? What do you think of the combination? Should we do this one or that one? That’s how you develop a taste, by experiencing.”

Calvin: “From age four or five I was [spending time in his father’s wine store]. Seeing what’s happening … it’s really growing into a business and learning and experiencing.”

Peter, 55, is planning to partially retire in a few years: “I will step back at the latest in three years … the plan is [Calvin and Damien] will take over the enterprise. Rob and Hans will stay. Hans will step back probably at the same time as I step back, but he’ll still be doing the day to day accountancy … Hans is a professional tax specialist.” Peter plans to spend several months each year at his second home in Brittany. 

“Rob will stay on for a couple of years. He’s a couple of years younger. I will come back [when Calvin and Damien take holidays] and around Christmas … the busy times. So I will still be working four to five months … I will be at least half of the year in Brittany. But I won’t sit back. (laughs) At first, I wanted to buy a skeleton of a house [in Brittany] and re-do it. But I know my body is not as supple as it used to be. Now I like flea markets. I’m buying quite a lot of things and I want to visit as a seller at high-end flea markets. Not the cheap stuff, but high-end.”

Calvin says the most satisfying part of his job is “working with people. Working with fun customers. Customers who like the wine also. They make your day. And if you sell them a good wine and they go home happy and they come back and they say ‘it was really a great wine’ then I’m happy.”

Peter: “That’s what we’re doing it for. The guy that walks by and says ‘Peter, thumbs up.’ That’s the most rewarding [part] of our business. And what I [also] like is buying. I like to get a good deal … I’ve got four big suppliers that really come to me. And sometimes they even send their colleagues to me, persons I’ve never done business with. And they say I’ve heard you can handle balance of wine. And I’ve got a problem with selling rose. Or I’ve got 2015 in and I’ve got to go on with 2016. I tell them ‘send a bottle. And if it’s good we’ll talk money. If it’s not good, forget it.’”

Wines and More has many longtime customers: “I think a majority of our customers are higher educated. They’re a step higher on the social ladder, and have a little bit more to spend. I can get along with a break worker as well. But that’s not our main customer. Our main customer is higher educated and into good things. That makes my job easier. Because a lot of my colleagues have to sell by price and we sell by quality. I think that’s the main difference.”

The wine and liquor store business “is really changing because of the Internet. It used to be about 40 to 45 percent wines and the rest was spirits. Nowadays it’s more than 50 percent wines … we used to sell quite a lot of high-end spirits, a lot of bottles above € 100. That segment has gone to the Internet... If you want you can compete, but you’re giving away all your margin. And we always say there are no lights on in the Internet … even with sending costs you can buy a bottle of whiskey cheaper on the Internet. We know that some people judge you by that. But most of them know you’ve got a different type of store. You give service, you let people taste. And the most important thing is you take it away with you straight away.”

“A lot of small wholesalers are disappearing. Twenty years ago as a wine buyer you could sell just French wines. That’s not possible anymore … if you have high, high end of the market you can probably still make a living. But a lot of small wine buyers that had a poor portfolio have disappeared. The bigger ones are getting bigger.”

“There are about four big players on the Internet in our business, and they just try to kill each other. That’s the only thing they do. Because there isn’t any money made. They’re just hoping the other guys fall. Even Gall & Gall the biggest chain [in the Netherlands] is participating in that race. And I think it’s crazy. Because Gall & Gall has to have the same shelf price as on the Internet … the other guys have a physical shop. But the shop is nothing compared to their Internet revenues. And Gall & Gall should make their money in the stores and not on the Internet. So what they’re doing is lose on the Internet and lose in the shop … It’s good for us.”

If all goes according to plan, Peter will be in a part-time role a few years from now, and Calvin will be “continuing the business with my brother … We will be the main guys.” Calvin feels “set for the future.”

Peter: “It’s a good thing I have just two kids. Otherwise I’d need to have to have more stores. (laughs) … It’s sometimes hard to work with your kids because everything is said. But it’s fun as well. Because when things get tough the whole family gets rough.” (laughs)

Wines and More has store locations at Korevaarstraat 21 and Haarlemmerstraat 241 in Leiden, and at De Loper 22 in Vlaardingen. Information about Wines and More is available at