The Transition From Wine Lovers to Using Wine as a Business

He didn’t want to retire. He had just lost his job where he did outsourcing for small businesses, a possible hint at what his next step in life would be. Now the owner of Steve’s Wine Bar, Steve Severance, said he “stumbled” upon the wine bar business after talking at a Rotary meeting about the wine nights him and his wife would have. After this one conversation, he was set on the project.

Karen and Steve Severance.

Photo by Tori Falcon.

“’They want me to open a place for wine, I might as well do that now,’” Karen Severance said her husband Steve expressed to her after the Rotary meeting. “The situation wasn’t ideal but he wouldn’t let the idea go.”

Steve’s Wine Bar opened Aug. 5, 2016. Steve and Karen have been married for 34 years - they have never owned a business and never worked together in this time span. Karen said at the least they were both “cheap labor.”

The couple had always been lovers of wine, but the shift to a business model with wine was different. Still, Steve said he didn’t want people to feel intimidated by the idea of a wine bar.

“In this whole attitude of taking over this place, I wanted to make it fun. I didn’t want to make it pretentious or come off as this super expert of wine because honestly, I’m not,” Steve said. "Being a professional at it, it’s one thing. My professional attitude right now is I want wine to be fun.”

Sammi Drew comes in about 2-3 times a week after work along with her coworker. She said their friendship with the owners is even “Facebook official.”

“We’ve gotten to know Steve and Karen really well and that’s probably why we come back,” Drew said. “Their detail, they can tell what kind of day we’ve had, they will remember exactly what [wine] we had.”

Steve (right)  talking with Sammi Drew (middle) and her coworker (left).

Photo by Tori Falcon.

Drew said she just moved to the area this past July and has found comfort at Steve’s.

“Being new and not knowing anyone, I just feel like I do, like I belong,” Drew said.

Karen considered her and Steve regulars at the previous wine bar, Vigne, which District 4 City Councilman John Ryan owned. About six years before they took over, she said she was already acting as the owner when new people walked in.

“I jumped up, I said ‘come on I’ll give you the free tour since it’s your first time in,” Karen said. “They said ‘Are you the owner?’ I said ‘No, I just drink here.’”

Steve said many people tell him to make the bar into a chain, but he feels this would cause the couple to not be as present.

“A lot of people come in here because it’s relaxed and it’s fun. But, they also come in expecting to see Steve or Karen,” Steve said.

They host Jazz nights every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so Steve said the next stage would be a bigger place to be Steve’s Wine & Jazz Bar.

Karen said before opening the business, they did look at what they had saved but ultimately threw themselves into the project rather unprepared.

“This was a whim and if I had done things differently, knowing I was going to do this, we would have done some things significantly different financially just to make sure we were prepared,” Steve said.

Steve said they did look at what they needed to do financially which included, selling stagnant stocks but didn’t change much of what the business before had in order to save money.

Now about a year and a half later from their opening, they have a prospering wine club and are hosting events in their backroom including everything from wedding receptions to the Denton Black Film Festival’s VIP party.

“We came in and someone said ‘what makes you think you can come in where two to other businesses didn’t make a go of it, how did you feel you could do this?’ I said ‘I don’t know stupidity, blind enthusiasm,’” Karen said.

It is only the beginning of March, but Steve said the year has been looking profitable in context of the past two months.

“I had anticipated a pretty sizable drop off in revenue from December into January,” Steve said. “This month we did almost as much business as we did in December[...] To me, that’s exciting because if that’s the trend for this year then I’m thrilled.”

Header image layout designed by Holden Foster.