GA! First-what is Grape & Barley?
Mark: We are a unique, fun and educational wine and craft beer shop with over 250 small production wines not found in grocery stores. Our selection of over 150 beers are from all over the globe but with a strong focus on those brewed locally.
GA! What was the original idea and how did your business start?
Mark: I knew I wanted to run a business when I left the banking world. I started getting into wine about 10 years ago and fell in love with all the complexities wine had to offer. My passion for craft beers kicked in about 4 years ago when I realized craft beer had progressed just a wee bit from my Miller and Bud days. Beer today is every bit as complex as wines. At that point it became clear what kind of business I wanted to own.
GA! What products and service do you offer? What about classes?
Mark: In addition the wines and brews, we also have a delicious menu of cheeses, charcuteries, and locally made hummus, salsa and tapenade; just to name a few.
We have rotating selections of wines by the glass as well as higher end wines in our cuvenee machines. The wines in these units can be purchased by the taste, half glass or full glass. Our tasting bar also includes 4 craft beers on tap as well as a wide selection of bottled brews.
We are very proud of our Craft Room which comfortably seats 20 and can be rented for special events, parties etc. Best of all, there is no charge for the room Monday through Thursday.
Our partnership with Art’s Desire enables us to offer high quality gift baskets on demand, which is perfect as we move into the holiday season.
The service I’m most proud of is being able to guide our customers to make a selection based on their tasting preferences. Frequently, we have a wine open that may be close to what they are looking for. Based on their feedback (too dry, too fruity etc), we can pick out the right wine for them. Our customers have been very receptive to this.
Lastly, we offer scheduled classes and tastings, including our Free Sip to Sample Saturday every week from 2-4PM. Our website has a list of all upcoming tastings and classes.
GA! It looks like you have recently rearranged your space?
Mark: That’s correct. The model for Grape and Barley has always been retail focused with a tasting bar to compliment the retail selection. We recently added wine racks to the front of the store and converted our wall display to primarily beer. To enhance the customer experience, we have also labeled the rack based on the classification of the wine or beer. Our new set up helps support our model and allows for an increased selection of both wine and brews.
GA! Do I have to know a lot about wine or craft beers to shop here?
Mark: Not at all. That’s what we’re here for, and what separates us from grocery stores. We can help you pick your beverages according to your tasting preferences or occasion. Just tell us your budget and we’ll take it from there.
GA! Tell me about the selection and price range?
Mark: We have wines from across the globe. Most all are considered small production, or under 5000 cases per year. 90+% of these wines are not available in grocery stores, and many are limited release. The same premise applies to our brews. I compare the beer scene in Charlotte today to what the wine scene was in Napa and Sonoma during the 1970’s. It’s a blast to be a part of it and carry many local beers.
Our wines are priced from $8 to some higher end wines north of $100 per bottle. We will also be carrying a selection of large format bottles of wine, or magnums, for the holidays. Those can run $150-$500 per bottle.
GA! What do you wish folks knew, or what would it surprise people to know about Grape & Barley?
Mark: First, we operate as a private club in order to serve beer on-premise in Gastonia. Membership is a whopping $1 per year, and hopefully well worth the investment. Shopping for wine, and now beer, can be an intimidating experience. Our customers should know that we are here to make it a relaxing, enjoyable experience.
GA! What is your background Mark- School, family, business experience….
Mark: I’m born and raised in New Jersey and attended college in Winter Park, Florida. I have a BA degree in Business Administration & Economics. I also have 2 wine certifications from Johnson and Wales. I spent 25 years working in the banking world with various responsibilities. I took an early retirement package at the end of 2011 to focus on getting Grape and Barley up and running.
My wonderful (and incredibly patient) wife of 26 years, Terry and l live in Belmont with our 2 dogs. We have 2 sons, 25 and 22, both living in Chicago.
GA! What has been the best part of owning Grape & Barley?
Mark: That’s easy. Getting to know our customers beyond their wine and beer preferences. Also, working with Page Thomas and others on our team has been entertaining and rewarding.
GA! What is the funniest or most unusual thing that has happen since you opened?
Mark: The first time we changed out a keg, we forgot to attach the beer spout before turning on the gas. Beer must have shot 10 feet across the bar area. Fortunately, no one was in the way.
GA! What would you be doing if you weren’t at Grape & Barley?
Mark: Probably working as an HR Consultant and traveling to various wine regions.
GA! What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Mark: I don’t know, but I’ll let you know when that happens. Seriously, relaxing with my wife Terry and enjoying a glass of wine for the sheer pleasure of it as opposed to feeling the need to analyze it. I’m also a Panthers PSLowner so tailgating with friends and family is loads of fun.