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Loose Goose, Another Casualty of the Economy

The economic downturn hit Peter Goossens’ wine enterprise hard. After six years of building the Loose Goose name, specializing in a narrow market of quality boutique wineries, and putting on what became one of the largest wine festivals in California, the undercapitalized venture shut down. “The main reason is the economy,” said Goossens. “We built on a luxury brand and the first thing people cut during hard times is luxury. Also, 60 percent of our business was based on large wine events that need a generous influx of sponsor money and in this economy, sponsor money has virtually disappeared.” Loose Goose, based in Santa Clarita, set out with an ambitious agenda. It organized the Loose Goose Wine Festival and expanded into projects such as the Loose Goose Wine Society and The Cellar. Shortly after, the Loose Goose brand was everywhere in Santa Clarita, from art events to fundraisers including the popular Taste of the Town benefit for the Child and Family Center. Although their first wine festival yielded nearly devastating losses, the company was able to endure a rocky start. Its fourth festival, a two-day celebration at Bridgeport Park last October, attracted over 9,200 visitors and became one of the largest wine festivals in California. Last year, the company expanded to a larger space in downtown Newhall, where they set up their private cellar, hired new staff and developed new programs. 1,000 members Loose Goose also celebrated the one year anniversary of its Wine Society with 500 members and their guests at Union Station in Los Angeles last year. At its peak, the wine society reached nearly 1,000 members, for whom he wrote a lively newsletter that offered tips and insight on food pairings and his, often philosophical, thoughts on wine. But as a start-up that put all its money back into the company, Loose Goose was not in business long enough to build a cushion of funds to help weather the financial storm, Goossens said. As people started saving on higher-end wine and events such as wine pairing dinners and tastings, and as former festival sponsors fled to invest their reduced advertising dollars in bigger events elsewhere, the company was left critically underfunded. “It boils down to timing really. It’s just that at the time that we needed to grow the most, that’s when the market started faltering.” After exploring all options and exhausting all potential resources, Goossens pulled the plug on all operations leaving a big void in Santa Clarita. Jessica Freude, an economic development associate with the city, said the festival brought in approximately $750,000 in economic benefits. “We were very saddened to hear that the Loose Goose Wine Festival is not coming back,” she said. “It was something the community really liked and embraced and it was also a great draw for people from regional markets as well, who would come and spend the weekend here for that event.” Looking back at the last six years, which he described as an exciting rollercoaster marked by challenging but at the same time very gratifying moments, Goossens said there is nothing he would have done differently. “There are no regrets, there’s just a little bit of disappointment. This was not just my passion, it was my dream. We’ve invested everything in it.” As for the future, Goossens said he doesn’t know what his next move will be. Looking to the future “I’m not somebody who just sits in the corner, I’ll have to lick my wounds for a while but we’ll re-group and hopefully in the future we’ll have some other challenge that we can bring to the community, but basically at this point I have no idea, to be honest.” It is unclear how the closure of Loose Goose will affect a lawsuit filed against Goossens last August, by Murray Siegel, who claims he helped create the festival. Siegel, who works as a stage manager, says he was instrumental in developing and producing the festival but was never compensated for his services over the course of three and a half years. He said he was led to believe he would be compensated for his work by becoming a partner of the company in the future, something that never materialized. Siegel is suing for over $250,000, including $150,000 for repayment of services rendered to the festival. He is also suing Goossens for repayment of a $15,000 personal loan. Siegel said he didn’t know what assets remained after Loose Goose shut down and was concerned it would affect his case. “It is highly unlikely that I will see any money. There are probably very little assets left,” he said. Goossens said the decision to shut down the Loose Goose was not at all related to the lawsuit.

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