Christian Navarro

Christian Navarro

President and Principal | Wally’s

Industry
Wine/hospitality

Location
Los Angeles


Featured In
CSQ Q3 2019, Wine 

Christian Navarro: A Look at How Wally’s, one of Los Angeles’ Most Esteemed Restaurants and Bars, Is Pivoting during the Crisis

Wally’s Beverly Hills was founded in 2014 by Maurice Marciano, Paul Marciano, and Christian Navarro as a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, bar, and gourmet wine and food store to complement to the nearby acclaimed wine shop that had been around since 1968. A 9,000-square-foot location opened in Santa Monica in Fall of 2018. Combined, Wally’s Beverly Hills and Wally’s Santa Monica offer a total of 8,000 different wines and serve approximately 1,000 people per day. Since opening, the stores have received numerous awards including the prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award for the past three years in a row. Navarro has been with the company since 1991 and is credited for transforming Wally’s into the unique, luxury dining and shopping experience that is today.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

The struggles of my staff, our customers, and our community. We have hundreds of employees that are currently unable to serve our customers in the restaurant and are struggling to pay their bills. We have customers who are also losing their jobs and their well-being is a giant concern. Wally’s is a community safe haven where people come together to enjoy a great glass of wine at the end of the day, but now they are obviously unable to do that. We are a very social, human business so the virus has not only shifted our business model, but also our daily lives.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? How has that changed from a week ago? 

Luckily for Wally’s, our foundation is retail. We are focusing 100% of our efforts now on wine, spirits, and gourmet food retail shopping (in-store and online) and take-out from our restaurants. We have been delivering and shipping to our customers for 50 years, so we already have the infrastructure in place. Our team has also gotten extra creative with different e-commerce and social media marketing campaigns relating to the current situation. For example, we have an ongoing campaign called, “What We Are Drinking at Home.” In addition to our full takeout menu, we are also now selling gourmet protein boxes complete with organic chicken, beef, and fresh fish.

Wally’s Protein Box, which is available—along with their wine and spirits—for delivery and takeout.

As troubling as the current situation is, it is a necessary time to reset, reflect, and focus on how we can all do better, be better, and help each other. 

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?

I think in a year people will be VERY grateful to share delicious wine and food together in a beautiful dining space–that isn’t also their living room! A simple pleasure like that will never be taken for granted again. I think hospitality and retail professionals will actually be given even more respect and appreciation from patrons and of course vice versa. As troubling as the current situation is, it is a necessary time to reset, reflect, and focus on how we can all do better, be better, and help each other.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?

We have endured earthquakes, riots, and numerous other financial crises. There was a time in my life where I did not know where my next meal would come from. I have learned the most important thing I can do in times of crisis is to get up each morning and work as hard as I can to get myself out of it. Now I am not only doing it for myself, but all of our employees, our customers, our community, and the industry. My drive to help others survive and prosper far outweighs my own fear and anxiety.

Wally’s Beverly Hills.

Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime 

 

Morning routine?

Actually, my schedule is the same, it’s important for me to show my staff that the world is not ending and that life will go on!

Currently binging?

I don’t watch TV.

Currently reading? 

Being an avid reader, I actually am always reading at least three books. Right now, I am reading Life by Keith Richards, Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, and Cold Heaven by WB Yeats.

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?

My Frenchie Violet has never been happier—long walks and long talks with her.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?

I take long walks with my pup and do major stretching focusing, thinking about what we are going to do once we come out of this.

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?

I really love the Four Seasons Maui and the Montage in Cabo. Both of these places are top of class—just picturing my feet in the sand makes me smile. My mouth is watering just thinking about a perfect steak at Capo in Santa Monica, that perfect martini at Dan Tana’s, the cauliflower at Peppone, enjoying the patio at The Ivy, and sitting at the perfect counter spot at Chi Spacca.