Whether your knowledge of wine is “I like it,” or you’ve had enough sips to approach sommelier status, Worthington’s House Wine is celebrating 10 years of connecting customers and vino.
Owner Donnie Austin opened the shop at 644 High St. in 2007 based on his experiences getting into wine, and frustrations finding the right bottle when shopping.
“Part of it was just not knowing what to buy,” Austin says.
Big box retailers typically didn’t have customer service to steer in the right direction, but even at speciality shops he felt he didn’t know what to ask.
“The idea was just to make ours a little more customer friendly and interactive,” Austin says.
House Wine is designed so that novice drinkers to experts can find a good bottle of wine whether an employee is assisting or not. Austin wants to remove the stigma of snobbery that can sometimes surround wine – after all it’s just fermented grape juice he says.
Signage and classifications direct drinkers to the type of wine that suits their tastes, and food pairing stations help with the “I’m having this for dinner…What wine should I pair it with?” questions. And for the truly befuddled, House Wine’s employees know the right questions to ask even if a customer doesn’t know exactly what they want.
That level of customer service is one of the things Austin believes has led to their successful decade.
“I think your employees are your number one ingredient for a successful business,” he says. Most of his staff has been around since the beginning.
The decade hasn’t been without its challenges, though. The early years weren’t exactly stellar for the economy and felt at the business. A property re-evaluation tripled taxes and came with a hefty bill. Customers weren’t spending as much as expected.
House Wine found ways to make it work. They adjusted their inventory to match the price points customers were spending. They also worked hard to bring new customers in, and then retain that same clientele.
Austin says many people thought House Wine was a chain store at first, but soon realized the local shop could provide a better value. House Wine focuses on finding customers better bottles within their price points, stocking an inventory of wine from around the world.
That same setup will make its way to Bexley in early 2018 when House Wine opens its second location at 2262 E. Main St. Austin says he’s always wanted to expand, but was waiting on the magical combination of right time, right opportunity.
“Growth is great when it’s under control and you’re ready for it,” he says.
Austin is working towards a seamless transition. He wants to make sure House Wine will maintain the experience in Worthington while expanding its footprint.
Austin had been eyeing the city for a couple of years before finding the right spot. Situated next to Giuseppe’s Ritrovo and just down the block from the Drexel Theatre, it provides the perfect place to grab a glass of wine during comings and goings.
The response from the Bexley community has been overwhelming, Austin says.
“We have friends and customers who live down there,” he says.
He saw a demand from the community and parallels to his clientele in Worthington. Both areas of town have a strong sense of community and folks that want to support small, local businesses.
Worthington’s reputation as not just a shop, but a place for the community to gather over a glass of wine also has Bexley residents excited. Austin says that having an established brand has helped garner more interest and excitement.
For more information, visit housewine.biz.