On Jan. 20, Maggie Crawford and Cara Fischer along with some other friends were sitting in La Capitale in downtown Salem celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Discussion at the table revolved around Obama’s speech and, of course, the economy.
“There was a point in his speech where he talked about reinvesting in local communities,” Crawford, who had recently retired from a career with local wineries, said. “I sort of looked back up the street, pointed and said, ‘Grand Vines is up for sale.'”
The statement was met with a silence that encompassed both disbelief and hope.
“I figured I couldn’t possibly lose any more money than I already had in the stock market,” Fischer said.
A week after the euphoria of the historic moment had passed, Crawford sent out an e-mail to the group that had gathered for lunch as well as some other interested individuals she’d been talking to about the opportunity. The e-mail’s subject line got straight to the point. It read, “Are you serious?”
Two months later, Crawford, Fischer and nine other partners were signing papers to take ownership of Grand Vines, Salem’s downtown wine cafe.
Grand Vines was struggling as then-owner Tim Duffy shifted focus to other pursuits. The collective came along just in time to revive the shop.
“It became this natural fit,” Fischer said. “Maggie was elected the day-to-day manger because of her experience with the wineries, another had experience in human resources, another wanted to build our website.”
As they’ve moved forward, Crawford and the other partners have kept the focus on local reinvestment, featuring different wines throughout each month that can be tasted for as little as $1-2. In addition, Grand Vines hosts feature tastings on Wednesdays in which regional wineries set down stakes for a day to show off the best of their barrels.
“We want to make Grand Vines a place to get started when someone wants to learn about wine,” Crawford said. “Helping someone grow their palate is a really rewarding experience.”
Drawing on her previous contacts in the wine business, Crawford has been able to expand Grand Vines’ offerings to include bottles once sold exclusively through wineries themselves or their respective wine clubs. A 1997 merlot/cabernet blend from Foris Vineyards is one of her top recommendations.
Maintaining a minimal global impact is an important driver as Grand Vines’ owners navigate their path forward.
“In addition to the wine, we’ve recently added local and regional coffee, tea, soda and beer to our inventory. As much as possible we’re seeking out organic and fair trade suppliers for everything the shop sells,” Fischer said.
Grand Vines also sells locally produced cheeses and chocolates to pair with their drinks, and features work from local artists.
While Crawford is actively pursuing expansion of Grand Vines’ selection of local and regional wines, the shop is also home to a variety of premiere wines from throughout the world.
“We also do special orders for customers looking for specific bottles and tastes,” Fischer said.
Acquiring a wine at any cost is actually a simple task once a supplier is located, so Fischer details Grand Vines’ overarching goal as something more difficult.
“It’s easy to to pay a lot of money for a great wine. It’s a lot more difficult to find a great bottle of wine for less than $25,” Fischer said. “Either way, life is too short to drink inferior wine.”