Fayetteville wine enthusiasts and fans of a popular-butnow-closed wine shop have cause to raise a toast. If things go as anticipated — ABC permits, etc. — The Sip Room will open Dec. 15 at 106 Hay Street, the former location of The Wine Cafe, which closed Sept. 30.
The Sip Room is a venture of three women who are best friends, longtime business colleagues and have strong Fayetteville ties, despite the fact that two of them now live elsewhere. All three have successful real estate careers but have always been interested in opening a retail business, though not necessarily a wine shop.
“It's funny, because we didn't plan on this happening. It just kind of fell in our laps and we wanted to build upon what was already here,” said Juawana Colbert, a former Fayetteville resident who now lives in Tampa, Fla.
Colbert, by the way, stars in the upcoming Netflix reality series, "Selling Tampa."
“We knew that The Wine Cafe was here previously, so we just wanted to build upon that and kind of bring a new, updated flare to it. So when Santina [Fayetteville resident Santina Thomas] came up with the idea of getting the space, we came up with what we were going to do with it, and The Sip Room was born.”
Rounding out the team is former Fayetteville resident Tomeka Purcell, who now lives in Charlotte.
Although The Wine Cafe closed somewhat abruptly, it wasn’t for lack of customers. Owner Angie Malave said that after pouring herself into the business for a decade, she needed a break — especially after the stress retail shops have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sip Room owners saw a chance to move into a space that already was designed as a wine shop and tasting room and knew that Fayetteville has a flourishing wine scene. They also were excited about being downtown.
“I am familiar with downtown,” Thomas said. “My husband just opened a cigar lounge, Livery Cigar [147 Maxwell Street in the Cool Springs District], and I also rent out an Airbnb a couple of doors down from The Sip Room.
“I've been hanging out downtown for a pretty long time now, so I'm very familiar with the new businesses that come in the area. We kind of always wanted to do a business, but we really didn't know what type of business to do in the area for ladies and also for gentlemen. We're not excluding the gentlemen, but we just kind of want, you know, a relaxed space where women can go in the daytime as well to hang out with their girlfriends and have a glass of wine or champagne. They'll be able to do work and have great conversations.”
A lifetime of business connections and networking paid off for Thomas, who is owner and CEO of The Real Estate Concierge, located at 7948 Raeford Road.
“When that opportunity [to move into The Wine Cafe space] presented itself, I actually had been looking for an office building downtown,” Thomas said. “John Malzone [the owner of the property] had become a really good friend due to my husband's relationship that he has with him.”
Initially there were plans for a piano bar at the location, which is near Market Square. The piano bar idea proved short-lived, however, giving the three entrepreneurs a chance to tap into the fine-wines market as well as the vibrancy of Fayetteville’s fast-growing downtown.
“I knew that the piano bar was coming,” Thomas said. “So I asked John to let me just check out the space.”
Thomas admits she was being a little nosy, driven by her passion for real estate and entrepreneurship in general.
“When he told me that the piano bar was no longer going to be there, I was like, Oh, let me just see this space. So when I walked through the door, I knew this would be a perfect business opportunity.
“I immediately called Juawana and we said, ‘Yeah, let's do it. We don't want to miss out on a big opportunity for Fayetteville,’” Thomas said. “And when we decided to bring in a third partner to make it a bit easier for us, we called Tomeka, and she just jumped right on board, and we immediately started working on it.”
Although The Wine Cafe got rave reviews, the ladies plan to put their personal touch on The Sip Room, creating a new, fresh brand. To use wine parlance, The Sip Room is offering a unique vintage, not only for wine lovers, but also for people who like to socialize and network, activities for which COVID has created pent-up demand. In addition to wine tastings and bottles to go, The Sip Room will offer a mix of events and even classes.
“As for branding, we wanted to come up with something that was catchy but still represented what we will actually be doing here,” Thomas said. “Not only can you have a sip here, you can take your sips with you. So it'll be a retail shop as well.
“You can sit here and enjoy your purchase, and we're going to host some other offerings, some different classes and different themed events. It could be live music. It could be, you know, how to make a charcuterie board. It could be wine and yoga. We'll have a number of different things.”
The timing and location couldn’t be better. In addition to people seeking to escape COVID-induced cabin fever, Fort Bragg has its full complement of personnel here for the first time in 20 years, in effect adding 15,000 residents to the area. At the same time, downtown is as bustling as ever. Officials at the Dec. 2 State of the Community forum noted that business activity downtown this year has led to a 13 percent increase in taxable revenue.
“The good thing about The Sip Room is that there have been a lot of individuals that were familiar with The Wine Cafe and were disappointed that it shut down unexpectedly,” Purcell said. “So we have an opportunity to gain those individuals, to get them to come to our establishment. We're excited that we're going to be able to be a part of the industry to help increase that 13 percent to 20 percent or however much it does. That's our main goal: to grow The Sip Room and also help the city of Fayetteville.”
"It's the perfect spot," Colbert said. "I think we were just in the right place at the right time." The Sip Room planned a soft-opening event on Dec. 9 and expects to open full time Dec. 15. As for regular hours, it will be closed on Mondays, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.
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