Today, Hennings Wine is the first stop for lovers of hand-chosen wine.
Founded in 1960 by Charles Hennings, the first shop at London House, Pulborough, was primarily a delicatessen offering a handful of wines to local patrons. Control has passed, father to son, since then; from Charles to Ted, and in turn to Matthew, the current Managing Director.
The shape of the business may have changed over the decades, but the ethos remains to this day. Matthew’s grandfather Charles, affectionately known as ‘The Major’ by the team, was a stickler for service and smartness. “He’d be impressed by the business in 2023 but I’m not sure he'd be impressed with the lack of ties and starched shirts!” Matthew says, from Hennings’ Pulborough headquarters.
While the shop did a roaring trade with its food stuffs in the early days, it was evident that wine was to become the driving force within the business. “There was very little choice in the local area when it came to wine merchants”, Matthew continues, “as demand increased, wine began pushing the deli to one side. The speed of this increased further when my father Ted joined in 1965 to ‘temporarily’ help out.”
Such was the demand from both private and wholesale customers, that a flurry of new shops opened in Billingshurst, Petworth and Midhurst. In the early days, Hennings’ headquarters was a much smaller-scale affair than it is today; the offices were located above the original London House shop. “It was cosy!” remembers Matthew, who joined in 1994. “Whilst we had acquired a warehouse unit on Station Approach in 1991, we didn’t move the offices there until 2001 when we added the neighbouring units. We felt like sardines in London House at times, but it kept us close to the action, which is hugely important if you want to understand your customers.”
“Those early days for me in the business, having the opportunity to work with both my father and grandfather at the same time, were incredibly precious to me”, Matthew notes. “It really did galvanize in me a sense of how important our business was to the local area and how fortunate we were, and are, to have such a fantastic team.”
Why is Hennings still going strong 63 years later? Matthew reflects on comparisons between the initial move from deli to wine merchants with the launch of their website in 2005. “Clearly the team and products are the foundation of our business, but we’ve also been quick to evolve and listen. We have found that wine, and the sharing of it with friends and family, often plays a role in many of life’s ups and downs; at times of great joy and celebration and also of sadness and loss. The ability to play a small part in that is an incredible privilege.”