For over 30 years, Gary Mulleneaux has been providing expert — and personalized — advice to his loyal customers at Beltramo’s. So, it didn’t come as a surprise that folks were lining up to get his final recommendations before the store closes within the next month or so.
What did surprise us is how he came to be employed at the store, the oldest in Menlo Park. “I was working as a graphic artist at Saga Corp. on Sand Hill Road and used to stop in at Beltramo’s when it had a location at the Sharon Heights Shopping Center,” he told us. “Talking with the people there, I got interested in Italian wine.
“I decided to take a time out from graphic arts and stopped in at the Beltramo’s on El Camino for the first time. A woman was setting up a tasting, and she told me that if I wanted a job, to talk with Dan Beltramo.
“I told him I wanted to learn about wines. In my mind, it was like an internship. Dan brought me on board, and I’ll never forget that he gave me this opportunity.”
Beltramo’s wine selections numbers in the 1,000s, and Gary tastes each of them. “There is a bit of an art in selling fine wines,” he explained. “You have to taste them so you can understand all the subtleties and the differences.
“The next part is really listening to the customer. I ask them what kinds of wines they enjoy and use that as a base. Sometimes they say they want to experiment and that gives me a green light!”
It’s those customers, as well as his co-workers, that Gary will miss most when the 126-year-old store closes. “I’ve advised people about wines for all kinds of occasions and now are advising their children who’ve grown up,” he said. “We’ve always focused on the walk-in customer, so you really build relationships. Plus, our wine buyers are amazing; they select the amazing inventory. It’s a unique situation and one that I’ll miss.”
Just as we will miss Gary, who may have some new wine-related projects in the future, which we’ll let InMenlo readers know about.
The Beltramo family posted a lovely farewell message on the store’s website.
Photos by Scott R. Kline