GENEVA – Alfred Buchanan was living a lawyer’s life the past 14 years, driving to Geneva from his home in Campton Township to take the train into the city.
And as he drove past the Berry House, 227 S. Third St., there was a sign indicating a former wine shop was vacant. He passed the “for rent” sign for six months.
Buchanan, 53, was drawn to the idea of turning his 30-year hobby of reading about, studying and collecting wines into a business of selling wine, teaching people about wine – and perhaps learning a few things from other devotees.
“I always wanted to open a wine store in retirement,” Buchanan said. “But this is 10 years too early for me. After a great deal of soul-searching, and long conversations with my wife Audry, we needed to take the plunge.”
The first true step was getting a liquor license from the city, which was approved in a special Committee of the Whole session, followed by a City Council meeting on Monday. Buchanan said he should have the Geneva Wine Cellars and Tasting Room ready for business by mid-May.
“We will be selling wine by the glass, bottle and case,” Buchanan said. “We will be deepest in French wines, also Burgundy, Rhône and Alsatian wines, along with Languedoc-Roussillon. Also wines from most or other renowned winemaking areas in the world: Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand. I am still in the process of making selections, but we will have 150 to 200 wines in my inventory.”
Buchanan said opening a wine store has been something he wanted to do for a long time, and he was surprised the opportunity presented itself this early. Buchanan said his store would offer his library of books about wine, as well as the ability to sit, sip wine and compare. And talk about wine.
“If you like geography, science and people; if you like things that taste good, then you like wine,” Buchanan said. “There is no reason any of that should be intimidating. … We’ll have a reading nook where we can sip and talk about wine. I hope to attract people who know more about wine than I do.”
Robert Kovacs, a Geneva Township trustee seeking re-election April 9, is acting as a consultant to Buchanan. Kovacs started the Geneva Wine Seller in that location in 1982.
“When I started it, there were no dedicated wine shops that only sell wine, not liquor or beer,” Kovacs said. “I was told by distributors I would not survive because we were not ready for a European model. And I did it for 26 years.”
Kovacs sold the business in 2008. Kovacs said he interviewed Buchanan for two days before deciding to sign on as a consultant.
“I said, ‘I am willing to work with you. I think you can make it,’ ” Kovacs said.
“I hope the passion I bring to it carries forward and that people come to me to learn and discover new wines and learn more things about wines,” Buchanan said.
The store’s contact information is 630-232-8888 – though voicemail is not set up yet; the email is email@example.com, and when the website is up, the address will be www.genevawinecellars.com.