Mercer Island will have a new wine store before Christmas. Its grand opening is planned for Dec. 1. Owner Flora Brier, from the former Soviet Union, recently acquired American citizenship and started up the Olde Wine Store with the help of a temporary CEO, Terry Protto, and both sat down with the Reporter.
Brier left the Ukraine four years ago and came to Seattle to marry her second husband, Edward Brier. After coming to Washington state, she earned pharmacy technician certification. In Russia, she had graduated with a master’s in chemical engineering and opened a fur coat shop in Moscow, which was a family-run business.
Protto, from Portland, Ore., who was once the senior vice president of the Bon Marche (Macy’s), said “retail is in his blood” and the team, in a few short months, has gone from concept to lease to preparing to open the store. Protto ships wine to China and other countries. “The mission in my company is to change the balance of trade one order at a time,” Protto said. “I have a bigger, global mission in life because I can afford to do that.”
The Olde Wine Store will be located at 7858 S.E. 28th Street, in the space that was vacated by Glisten Tanning Salon, which moved to Seattle.
What will make the Olde Wine Store different? What makes your wine unique?
We’ll be featuring unique wines that can’t be found in grocery stores and big box retailers. The wine is going to cost a whole lot more than $8.99. It’s limited.
(It starts at) the farm — a special grape is grown in the soil and climate: a microclimate. It’s in the vineyard and the microclimate, then only so many bottles — of 2009, 2010, 2011 — are vintage produced. We might be talking just a few 100 cases at 12 bottles per case. We have been very selective in choosing no more than six distributors of a big list we could have gone with. From time to time in our travels around the Pacific Northwest and the world, we have the ability to buy directly from a winery.
When you think about a store, there are three things: content, presentation and people. We will be a source for Reidel glassware from Austria. It’s from the 1500s or 1600s — an old company. Flora will be a gift buyer for our wine-oriented gift collection. The store will be warm, inviting, and will include a grand piano for music and for atmosphere. Anyone can come in and play.
Pacific Northwest wines or foreign wines?
We have to have both. The balance is 60 percent international and 40 percent Pacific Northwest. Why? Because Northwest people like to buy Northwest wines. We’re in the best of Washington wine country and we’ll carry a fine assortment — say, a Henry Estate Pinot Noir — on three levels. Estate-bottled, private, reserve — that’s what you will find at the Olde Wine Store.
What is the inspiration for the name, the Olde Wine Store?
It is old-world, European. I would like a warm, old-world ambiance to be in my store. It is not only about European wine, but domestic American wine is also included. I am trying to choose from the best producers — wine from Italy, France, New Zealand, Spain.
What started your passion for wine?
I think it was long before this — my parents had a small property; in our garden, we always had grapes. Every year my dad did his own wine … We had so many grapes.
Are you worried about competition?
No. This is not a wine bar; this is a wine store. In our store we will have a wine tasting every Saturday. There is the liquor store, but … we’re specialty wines; the liquor store doesn’t have access to specialty wines.
Why did you choose Mercer Island as your location?
We wanted to be on the Eastside. We had four or five markets to review … we didn’t feel we could compete with the Grape Choice in Kirkland because they’re well established.
There is no one real wine store in Mercer Island; Cellar 46 is more like a wine bar and restaurant. I always think, what kind of wine store would I like to come to? When I choose my wine, I just want to talk to a wine steward. When I came here, I liked Mercer Island very much.