Beneath a chandelier laced with faceted crystals reflecting a bygone age, a room is steeped in 1920s history, while fresh opportunity bubbles up for a female entrepreneur, so filled with optimism.
Stacey Gibson, who co-owns Park Avenue Fine Wines of Portland, OR, with partner Neil Thompson, enjoys the rise of her career as sommelier-turned-business woman with enthusiasm and intensity
“Wine, for me, evokes an image of beautiful vineyards, and late-night conversations over wine and meals,” Gibson says. “I just love the wine business so much! It’s romantic, geeky, intense, but very community oriented.”
In a gorgeous, open space which was once part of a 1920s historic hotel in Portland’s NW neighborhood, Gibson’s 15 years of restaurant work, along with her Advanced Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers came together in a burst of inspiration. And in August of 2016, she flung open the doors. In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand’s blog Recipe for Success, Gibson tells us how she did it.
Boxerbrand: How did you get your start?
Stacey: The concept for the wine bar was something I had been thinking about for five years before we opened. Long before we opened, I worked in restaurants for over 15 years. I’m from the East Coast, went to Boston College, and then moved on to New York City to work in restaurants. It was in New York that I figured out my calling was with wine. I worked with wine, started studying it, and went on to receive my WSET (Wine Spirt Education Trust) Advanced Certification as a sommelier.
Boxerbrand: How did Park Avenue Fine Wines emerge?
Stacey: The opportunity to open a wine bar came from an opportunity presented by one of our investors. He had an amazing space in this gorgeous downtown building, a historic register building that was a hotel in the 1920s. The building has condos above the wine space, which provides built-in foot traffic, and the space itself is just beautiful. We’re in the heart of downtown Portland, and are in a space where a French restaurant operated for 40 years. We have a beautiful bar that opens into the shop, with a gorgeous chandelier in the middle of it all.
Boxerbrand: What is your niche?
Stacey: We lean toward providing wines that have soul and come from a place where they were made by hand. This is by contrast to large-production or factory-made wines. We don’t have a dogmatic wine list or selection, but we offer wines that have a story our customers can appreciate. For example, we carry wines produced by a small family run winery that is elevating a grape that is part of their heritage and history that they don’t want to disappear. These families have so much passion and zeal for what their family has grown, and we seek to help introduce their product made from the soul, to our customers.
Boxerbrand: What is one of your favorite wines?
Stacey: Right now Domaine des Bérioles wine, which is produced from the Tressalier grape, is one of my favorites. This is an ancient varietal grape that is not found anywhere but in central France, at the very end of the Loire. It’s an absolutely stunning, full-bodied white, really minerally textured — it’s delicious!
Boxerbrand: How do you acquire customers?
Stacey: Our location is ideal for this. We’re located in downtown Portland, where we have a lot of tourists and businesspeople who come in after work. We also pull in a lot of weekend shoppers. We try to maintain our customers through online contact and personal attention, and we’re hoping to increase our marketing. We are a small business clamoring for market share.
Boxerbrand: What makes you optimistic?
Stacey: I love hospitality and I’m an extrovert who is dedicated to helping people discover their passion for wine. When I get out there and talk to tables of guests, and tell them about a wine they love, they get excited. With wine, there’s a lot of joy in the discovery process, and there’s a community who gathers under our chandelier who want to share in the soul and passion that goes into the making of their favorite wines. — Park Avenue Fine Wines of Portland, OR uses Boxerbrand’s Linen Natural’s line in its table presentation. Thank you!