CEDAR RAPIDS — Traci Weber tells her customers at 1st Avenue Wine House to have faith in her.
“I tell them just trust me, and they come back in and say, ‘You knew. How did you know?’ Well, I ask a lot of questions.
“I am not a total expert on the products, but it’s really about getting to know the customer, being in tune with what they want, what they like and what they want to spend.”
Asking questions has made Weber somewhat of an expert in her work at 1st Avenue Wine House over the past decade. Wine has become her passion, one she shares with her husband, Ron, who co-owns the shop.
“This is Ron’s dream and my reality,” she laughed.
Weber, whose background is in secondary education, worked retail in high school and college and disliked it. But she quickly took an interest in wine, and the possibility of retail again, after meeting her husband in 2000.
“When I met Ron, he was into wine and I wasn’t. But I thought, ‘This is his passion, I’d better make it mine, too.’”
One day, while filling up at the gas station next door, they saw the current 1st Avenue Wine House property for sale and that the property was zoned commercial.
It took two years to make the necessary renovations and enhancements to the home, including what Weber called “the world’s longest ramp” to the front door. It opened for business in 2003.
Since then, Weber says, it has been a mix of hard work and serendipity.
Did you know?
- 1st Avenue Wine House was nominated and finished in 2nd place in the 2012 KCRG A-list Contest powered by Hoopla.
“People think that, as a retailer, if you don’t have any customers in the store you aren’t busy. That’s when I’m stocking, checking in wine and gifts, staying abreast of new wines or cleaning up after events.
“I’m the secretary, buyer and seller.”
A few years ago the Webers purchased the next-door lot and were able to add a courtyard that they now use for various events, such was wine tastings, music performances and fundraisers.
“What’s happened over time is we’ve grown into our business. Every year we have grown in some way, shape or form — inside or in the courtyard. We would love to expand and come up with creative ways to keep people interested in our business.
“It’s not easy being a small business in a big-box world.”
- Katie Mills Giorgio