Jai Greenfield '98
Profile: Jai Jai Greenfield '98
renaissance in Harlem
vintages in the heart of New York, alum demystifies wine for
February 2002, Jai Jai Greenfield '98 and husband Tim Greenfield
'98 took a drive through the New York neighborhood of Harlem
searching for the perfect brownstone.
an observer, Jai Jai (pronounced Jay Jay) and Tim seemed little
different from any other young couple searching for a home:
eager to capitalize on low interest rates and to stake their
claim in an area undergoing a renaissance. But as Greenfield
trawled block after block looking for that first home, she
found thoughts of brownstones pushed aside by a persistent
she reasoned, could someone walk for dozens of blocks in this
newly re-energized part of the city without encountering any
of the upscale wine stores so common in upper Manhattan?
soon as I had the idea, I knew it was one of the most important
things in my life and that I should begin pursuing it immediately,"
the energetic Kellogg alum recalls. She began researching
the market and merchandise, creating a business plan and searching
veteran of Smith Barney's investment banking division and
Morgan Stanley's sales and trading department, Greenfield
isn't afraid of hard work, long hours or blazing a trail as
one of the few African-American females to pursue a certain
line of work.
October her vision became reality with the opening of Harlem
Vintage at the corner of 121st Street and Frederick Douglass
Boulevard in New York. Co-owned and operated with longtime
friend Eric Woods, the store is a cab ride from where her
father grew up and showcases "great wines from all over
the country and the world," according to Greenfield.
Vintage spotlights wines produced by African-American- and
women-owned wineries, groups that have yet to gain equal recognition
in the wine industry. Among the labels Harlem Vintage peddles
are Time Warner CEO and Chairman Dick Parson's Il Palazzone
and a pinotage produced by a cooperative of South Africans,
as well as lesser-known brands from all over the world.
Nashville-reared Greenfield, frequent visits to her grandparents
and cousins in Harlem were a childhood highlight. During those
trips she heard stories of the neighborhood's heyday during
the 1920s and 1930s, a time when Harlem was the social center
for Manhattan nightlife and a thriving arts and music center.
Vintage reflects that heritage — it features vintage
photographs of Greenfield's grandparents — while evoking
wine production. Natural countertops have been crafted of
leaves and cork, mahogany wood and curved ceilings are reminiscent
of the barrels where wine is stored.
admits that wine culture can be intimidating and strives to
make it more accessible with weekly public wine tastings and
the store's approachable staff. During her early days at Morgan
Stanley, she often confronted long wine lists over client
dinners at trendy restaurants, when she vowed to learn as
much as she could about the different selections.
"There's a formality, cadence and ceremony that goes along
with wine. There's a certain way to choose a bottle, open
it and enjoy and partake in it," she observes.
and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship Steven
Rogers, one of Greenfield's mentors at the Kellogg School,
says he was proud, but not surprised, to hear of her venture.
seeing more African-Americans, particularly those who are
upper- and middle-class, moving back to cities and reclaiming
them," Rogers says. "I applaud her for recognizing
the opportunities in serving this community."
classmates have been supportive too: Besides frequent visits,
some have attended store events and one turned to Harlem Vintage
to purchase holiday gifts for employees.
Greenfield and her husband have yet to buy that brownstone.
When it comes to life goals, entrepreneurship and even wine,
she takes the long view. All things take time.
is not for the impatient," she says. "A bottle you
buy today may have been produced five years ago. The grapes
were grown two seasons ago. It's a fascinating process —
but not a quick one."