It has been almost a month since I opened the doors of Sage Wine & Spirits, and I thought it was about time to properly introduce myself and tell you a little about how the store came to be.
First, I would like to thank everyone who has come in and welcomed me. This is a wonderful community of neighbors, friends, and small business owners, and that is partly the reason I chose to open a shop in Ballston Spa. Everyone has been supportive and helpful, which has made this project feel easier and as if it were really meant to be. I hope that everyone who comes into the store feels just as welcome. It is my aim to provide a space in which customers can relax, ask questions, and become better acquainted with products you might not know. There is so much to discover about both wine and spirits, and I am dedicated to helping you feel comfortable learning more and trying new things.
A lot of people ask me how I decided to open this shop and what my professional background is. The short answer is that I fell into this business, and could not have imagined that this is what I would be doing. I grew up just outside Saratoga, and I used to visit my grandma in Ballston Spa, so I have seen the village change and grow over the years. I am thrilled that small, independent businesses are at the heart of the growth, and I am excited to be part of that. I moved away for college, and spent the best part of 20 years traveling, studying, running college residence halls, and working on organic farms. I've done a lot of odd jobs and seen a lot of cool places, but I never felt inclined to settle in one spot or commit to one career. A couple of years ago, after spending a year in an English PhD program, I realized that academic life was not for me. I did a bit more wandering, and ended up returning to this area to figure out what I really wanted to be when I grew up.
I landed a great job working at Brookside Nursery, where I discovered a knack for selling plants. I loved the work, and I loved my workmates even more. It's a small family business that has been around for 40 years, and the retail philosophy there really inspired me. The idea was not to just sell as much as possible, but to help customers find the right plant for their project, and to help them feel more confident about their own gardening knowledge. I found that the connections with customers, and the trust that developed because of those personal interactions, created a very positive shopping experience. I hope to bring that approach to Sage Wine & Spirits. My goal is for customers to enjoy the shopping experience (nearly) as much as you enjoy your purchases.
Because my position at Brookside was seasonal, I had to look for winter work. I ended up at a wine shop, and although I drank wine and knew a little about it, I soon found that I had much to learn. I also discovered that the learning process was something that would take the rest of my life, and would always be an interesting challenge. That was the first time I felt that way about a job, and it compelled me to think about how I might move forward in the business. It turned out that I had a knack for selling wine as well as plants, probably because I am pretty passionate about both! I started playing with the idea of opening my own store, but I couldn't really imagine how I would do it, and by the time summer came around, I put it on the back burner until the following winter.
My next off-season job was at The Thirsty Owl, working behind the bar. I was under the impression that New York wine was not very good, but I needed a job. One of the first requirements of pouring wine there was tasting the products. I hesitantly took that first sip, and to my surprise and delight, it was wonderful. Thirsty Owl was my reintroduction to New York wine, and I learned that wine making in the state has come a long way in the last ten years or so. I started thinking more about that store I might open; local and regional products are better quality, and there's certainly an interest in them. What about sustainable and organic products? Those agricultural practices have always been important to me--could I do something with that?
In January of this year I decided that it was now or never. I gathered together all of my ideals, ideas, and experiences, and I created a business plan. I was lucky to find one of the most beautiful storefronts in Ballston Spa, and with everyone's encouragement and support, I moved forward with Sage Wine & Spirits. Even a month ago, when I was still putting shelves together and there were towers of wine cases on the floor, it didn't feel quite real. I couldn't quite see how it would really work. Now I'm sitting in my lovely little shop, and I have already started to build relationships with some of the nicest customers a retailer could ask for. I love that I have been able to weave together so many parts of my life to create this place; a friend said that my fingerprint is on every aspect of this store, and I am proud and humbled that he could see that. I hope that everyone can see that as you get to know me and the shop better. Even the name brings together parts of my life: Sage is my middle name, and was my grandma's maiden name. It is also a nod to my experience in agriculture and horticulture, and a tribute to the gardening skills of all the women in my family. Finally, Sage connotes wisdom--not that I possess, but that I hope we gather as we learn more about wines and spirits, and as we enjoy them together!