JULY 19, 2017
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathleen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Like many, I came to the hospitality business as support for my academic pursuits, putting myself first through Wheaton College, then through graduate school at the University of Chicago. While working on my PhD in History of Christianity, I started my catering and coffee shop business, aptly named “Ambrosia,” the “Food of the Gods.” While I was a student at the University, Rick Bayless, who ironically was a PhD candidate in linguistics at the University of Michigan, opened his first endeavor, Frontera Grill, with the adjacent soon-to-be-recognized 4-star restaurant, Topolobampo. In fact, Topolobampo won the James Beard award for outstanding restaurant in 2017. Our paths soon crossed when I took a position at Topolobampo and began working on the complex food and wine pairings of gourmet regional Mexican cuisine. I decided I needed to know more, so I completed a course of study with the Court of Master Sommeliers in Aspen, Colorado, with Richard Betts (then the sommelier at the Little Nell) leading the charge. After completing my certification as a sommelier, I went to work for a small, but influential, boutique distributor in Chicago, called Maverick Wines, where exposure to wine-makers, chefs, restaurateurs, and wine retailers, vastly expanded my knowledge of wine and the wine business. While working in Chicago, I met a savvy retailer, who had been in the business many years. One day, he observed, “We both sell wine, but I like my job much better. You have to go out and find the customer. My customers come to me and they want to buy wine. I just have to steer them in the right direction.” From that time on, I viewed the wine retailer as a “coach” essentially looking for and developing the “right talent” and putting that “talent in the right hands”.
I “soaked up” as much wine knowledge as I could hold. I started teaching a 5-part introduction to wine series I called “Become a Wine Expert,” which I still offer at Savour twice a year, in October and April. I decided I would like to open my own wine shop, with a unique vision, specializing in small-production, artisanal, boutique wines from around the world and a “Try before You Buy” business model, featuring wine-tasting machines, where customers could sample 20 different wines before settling on the right bottle. I knew I wanted a store with a strong focus on education, with particular emphasis on the most challenging task for the sommelier, chef, or retailer, the pairing of food with wine. So, to this day, I see myself much like a coach, as I taste every wine that comes through our doors at Savour, to be sure it meets our standards, and I sell it to the customer who presents the best fit. We keep extensive records, so we know our customers’ names, needs, and wine preferences. Many times, they can’t remember what they bought or liked or what they had the wine with (only that they loved it and want it again), but we remember. That’s the most satisfying part! Now, Savour has become a distinctive voice on the North Shore, where many come from Cape Ann, as well as towns like Andover, Beverly, and even Boston for our unique selection of wine and artisanal cheeses, as well as charcuterie, and even craft beers, mostly from New England.