Wine All You Want
A year after bringing the first self-serve wine bar to Old Gretna, the owners are already looking at ways to expand.
We cannot thank the community of Gretna enough, from the business community, government officials and our neighbors we couldn’t be luckier. As first-time business owners, we have had the opportunity to meet many experienced business owners who have started to serve as mentors to us and helped to ingrain us into the community.
Kyle Gregore, co-owner
Located just across the river from New Orleans in Old Gretna, Stained Glass Wine House is a first-of-its-kind in the area — a café-style, self-serve wine bar. Opened Nov. 20, 2021, Stained Glass embraces the wildly popular self-serve bar trend that has taken on new relevance in the past few years with COVID-19 safety precautions.
The idea came about during what Kyle Gregore and his close-knit group of co-business owners — spouses Tasha and Rich Davis and friend Gary Lipkos — call “Free-Thinking Friday.”
“We are all members of the Louisiana Air National Guard,” said Gregore. “The desire to start a business together is something that we have discussed for the last few years. Initially, we wanted to open a brewpub in the city, but a few of us were deployed overseas and as such we had to put those plans on hold. While Tasha was on assignment in Europe, she was exposed to earlier generations of the [self-serve] machines that we are using and thought that they would be a unique way to contribute to the growing wine and craft beverage experience in the city. When she came back to work, she met with Gary and myself on what we call ‘Free-Thinking Friday,’ which is basically when we have a couple drinks after work and just talk about random things.”
Self-serve café bars — while popular in Europe and other large cities in the U.S. — have not yet developed a business following locally. It was then that the light bulb moment happened for Gregore and his colleagues.
“No [neighborhood wine bar] existed at that moment in Gretna,” said Gregore. “The timing was just perfect as I was in a class that required me to submit a business plan. With each passing week, we kept brainstorming, and finally I submitted the business plan. It ended up getting a very good grade, so we figured, ‘Screw it, let’s do this.’”
While the group was excited about the idea of developing the business, creating the right welcoming environment, and providing easy access to a variety of beverage options, all while also balancing the challenges of navigating the new pandemic “normal” were key components to Stained Glass.
“We wanted to create an establishment that felt like the coffee shop of the evening, a place that someone could go to for good wines and not feel judged because they didn’t know the difference between a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon, they just know what they like,” Gregore said. “The reason for self-serve was a multi-pronged decision: First, we wanted to take the one thing we hated about bars the most and remove it: lines. Second, we felt that COVID-19 would fundamentally change the way people would choose to interact, and the idea of people crowded together around a bar top would not be as prevalent as it used to be. Finally, we wanted to remove the perceived barrier of entry into wine. It can sometimes be hard to try new wines as the cost can get up there and you do not know if you will like the product, so we decided that the best way to resolve this was to offer the option of having 1-, 3- or 6-ounce pours.”
The new bar concept relies heavily on technology.
“The self-serve technology is super user-friendly,” he said. “When you come into the winehouse, you link the access card to your credit card and create a tab-type system. Our wines are set at [the] 1-, 3- and 6-ounce pours, so you can sample a wide variety of wines or choose to stick with your preference. For our liquor, it is dispensed in a single or double, while our beer is a traditional free flow beer tap. This allows you to sample as little as 1 ounce of beer all the way up to 16 ounces.”
Gregore said creating a new way of serving also included creating solid partnerships.
“For our system to work, we had to work with multiple vendors, as not only is there the side that our guests see (the machines) but there is an in-depth IT infrastructure that allows for everyone to have a seamless experience.”
Beyond happy customers, self-serve bars also offer restaurateurs and bar owners the ability to carefully manage their inventory in a new way. According to a March 2019 article in FSR Magazine, “Because the machine is logging every ounce that leaves the tap, there is no money lost on samples or tastings. The [setup] also allows the facility to track consumption, making sure no guest is overserved.”
The article also cites a report by PourMyBeer, estimating that the automated draft system can save up to a 23% loss per keg, while providing a way to track customer trends on consumption and saving money and time spent on labor. “In a recent stress test between a high-volume draft system with four bartenders and the same amount of drafts with self-serve technology with two supervisors, it was found that the self-serve system outsold the traditional draft 4 to 1 over the course of three days. This is a 400% increase in sales, plus 50% saved on labor costs. There is no wait time, allowing for more consumption and more sales. Additionally, the freedom to self-serve gives guests the opportunity to find something they truly enjoy, so they’re more likely to refill.”
While the self-serve delivery system is part of the success behind Stained Glass, Gregore also credits the bar’s experienced team members, Sean Moppert and Alicia Perry, with managing the day-to-day activities that keep everything running smoothly.
“We personally do not have any experience in the hospitality/bar industry so we felt it was important to hire a team of people that could make up for our inexperience, and between Sean and Alicia they have over 20 years of experience,” said Gregore. “They really do run this business for us in a way that we could only dream of.”
Gregore added that sales have remained relatively consistent overall and that the wine bar is on pace to exceed its first-year expectations, “which is great because we all thought what we aimed for was a pie-in-the-sky goal.”
The team rotates wines and foods throughout the year to provide guests with new beverage and light dining selections.
“Every quarter, we sit down with our distributors and staff and look to change out at least 25% of our wines in order to keep it fresh and new each season,” Gregore said. “It truly is a collaborative event when we all get together to do group tastings. We score each and every wine we taste and go from there. Our staff keeps us informed if one of our selections is not a popular one and we don’t hesitate to move on it to meet customer demands; that is the biggest benefit to having these machines.”
In order to be able to focus on the wine and atmosphere of the bar, the owners decided to work with Westbank Shark Coochie Boards, a local company that makes charcuterie boards.
“In addition to our boards,” said Gregore, “we also work with local pop-ups to introduce different flavors and styles of food to the Gretna community ranging from dim sum all the way to Birria.”
Maintaining a connection to the surrounding community has been critical to Stained Glass and its owners from the beginning.
“Tasha made it a point from the very beginning that this idea does not work anywhere else but in Gretna,” said Gregore. “And Rick — being the artist and carpenter out of the group — was able to see this blank slate and the potential for what this physical construct of the space could be.”
In less than a year in business, Stained Glass has already offered a range of events, including a wine education tasting, a whiskey tasting, teacher appreciation nights, a community plant exchange social and a weekly yoga class. Gregore said the team is currently focused on plans for some to-be-announced new additions.
“We do have plans to add more self-serve options, but I don’t want to give away too much yet,” he said. “At this location we are pretty much land-locked and cannot expand our space; however, we are working on ideas on how to grow our company so that we can bring the unique experience of Stained Glass Wine House to many, many more future guests.”
Stained Glass Wine House
201 Huey P. Long Ave.
Suite A, Gretna