Meet the Staff
Gary Fisch, Owner
When Gary was working toward his B.S. from Rider College in Political Science, he didn't yet know where life was going to take him. Gary fell in love with wine in his senior year of college while working with his father, a liquor salesman, and decided to become an expert. He educated himself at the Sommelier Institute in New Jersey and at several of Windows on the World's wine courses. The secret to his success is a passionate love and broad knowledge of his product — and the skill to communicate that delight. That enthusiasm and intelligence served him well when he teamed up with his brother Mark in 1987 and opened his first store in Madison, New Jersey. Two moves later, Gary's now has stores in Bernardsville, N.J.and on Route 23 North in Wayne N.J. Gary's expertise has earned him national media attention as "The Wine Guy" on the TV Food Network show Bobby Flay Hot off the Grill. He has made guest appearances on CNN, New Jersey 12 and Bloomberg radio and television. In January 2009, he was profiled in New Jersey Monthly's "Power Issue" as one of the 101 Most Influential People in the Garden State. Not bad for a guy who simply loves to share his enthusiasm for wine!
Dave Thompson, General Manager
I started working for Gary’s in Bernardsville when I was a student at FDU in 2003 and never left. I was hooked. Over the years working here and in restaurants across NJ, I have developed a passion for both food and wine. Working at Gary’s is a great outlet for me to continue indulging in good food, good wine, and good spirits.
I have held many roles in the ten plus years I have been here, including Gourmet Manager, Assistant General Manager and now General Manager of the Madison store. I love what I do and everyone I work with! Working in upscale retail is rewarding and challenging in many ways. The market is always changing and as a manager, I am able to exercise creative thinking to keep up with the demand of the consumer and the evolving industry of wine and gourmet foods.
When it comes to beverages, I don’t discriminate and find some beauty in them all! I love to pair my meal with the perfect cocktail. Whether it’s a nice bourbon with delicately marinated grilled chicken or a crisp, refreshing microbrew with a killer burger, I am all IN...savoring every moment. Life is good! Cheers!!!
Paul Gatzke, Gourmet Manager
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, I honed my chef skills in NYC and with my own catering business in North Jersey. I took a brief hiatus from my culinary career when I moved to Fort Lauderdale and dove headfirst into the cruise travel business. My new career took me to all four corners of the earth. I was able to experience first-hand the culinary tastes and techniques of Europe, Asia, the Far East and South America.
You can take the boy out of New Jersey, but you can’t take New Jersey out of the boy. In 2012, I returned to my true home, the great Garden State. Gary’s and I found each other, and I have been back to my culinary roots ever since. Fine cheese, fine wines and good gin are passions. Bear Boat Pinot Noir paired with sweet Abbaye de Belloc really makes my day. I love chatting with my guests about all things gastronomic. Come visit me in Madison’s Gourmet Department!
Kayla VanHooker, Front-End Team Leader / Party Planner
I began working in the Wayne store in 2010 in the floral and gift basket department. My position was only seasonal, but I was eager to help anywhere I could in other departments. The team at Gary’s quickly felt like family as they guided me to learn more, to support a variety of roles for the store. Most recently, I transitioned into a full-time role as the front-end team leader in Madison, where I also assist customers with party planning. I really love it!
Rich Isel, Wine Team Leader
After working with a landscaping company for a number of years, I have been on the staff here at Gary's for over 12 years. Initially a beer person, I became more and more interested in wine at our in-store sales presentations and by talking with visiting winemakers and importers. The store has sent me on trips to Napa and Sonoma in California, and to visit wineries in Chile and Argentina. My wine preferences include whites from France, especially the Loire, Alsace and Champagne, as well as New Zealand. In reds, I am fond of Argentina, Southern France, California, and Italy.
Rick Bedkowski, Wine Team
I went to art school in New York City and while I was putting myself through school, I worked in a well-known steak house for extra money. I was there for over five years and slowly came to appreciate wine and spirits more and more. Spanish wines, Tequilas, and cream soda are what I enjoy most.