Thanks to some blood, sweat, and tears, 38 E. Winter St. in downtown Delaware — the vacant eyesore next door to the 101-year-old historic Strand Theatre — has its first tenant in over a decade.
On Dec. 23, after months of renovation work, The Oak & Brazen Wine Company officially opened its doors to the public.
For owners Jeff and Gina Kirby of Powell (Barb Lyon is a partner in the business), the new venture is the couple’s third such go-around in the alcohol-production business having opened the Powell Village Winery in 2011 and partnering in 2016 to open the Dove Mountain Brewing Company (handcrafted beers) in Marana, Arizona.
At four times the size of the Powell Village Winery — the couple sold the tasting room portion of the Powell business to their former manager last year after becoming first-time parents — Mr. Kirby said The Oak & Brazen Wine Company is the couple’s attempt at taking their wine production company to the next level.
“I’m still very involved with the Powell location as we still produce all the wine for them, but I wanted to do something bigger based on what I had learned from the Powell location,” he said. “I’ve always had my eye on Delaware as an up-and-coming place for something like that.”
Despite having not housed a business since the Finish Line Bar & Grille over a decade ago, when Kirby — a graduate of the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University — got his first look inside 38 E. Winter St., he instantly “had a vision” that led to the couple purchasing the building, which had become a shell of its former self.
“When I walked in I kind of saw what I wanted it to become, and I think it has become that,” Kirby said.
The transformation, however, didn’t happen overnight as Kirby spent six months making sure his vision for the building was realized.
“I literally built this entire space myself,” he said, adding the goal was to make sure the building kept its “rustic, kind of warehousey feel.”
“I think the ambiance is really first class and will really set us apart,” he said. “There are a lot of different spaces (soft-seating area, a section with communal tables and oak benches, an area with wine barrel tables and metal stools, and a section with standard tables) here where I think someone can get comfortable, hang out, and have some great wine.”
The business’ bread and butter
As the name suggests, the primary focus of the establishment is clear.
“We have great, quality wines. I can definitely attest to that,” Kirby said. “The goal with our wines is to have a wine for every taste that walks through the door.”
To achieve that, the Kirbys produce 16 varietals of wine between the Powell and Delaware locations from juice and grapes sourced from both California and Washington state, which led to the business’ tagline: “Grown on the coast. Crafted in the city.”
As for the selection, The Oak & Brazen Wine Company serves a rosé, along with different varieties of whites, reds, reserves, and sangrias.
Kirby said in addition to wine — it can be purchased by the bottle, in single tastings (1 ounce), by the glass, or through the wine flight (choice of any four half glasses) — the business also serves local craft beers that will be rotated on a regular basis.
Something new in town
While The Oak & Brazen Wine Company does serve some locally-sourced food in the form of “sharables” like flatbreads, cheeses from The Greater Gouda, breads and chocolates from Fresh Start Cafe and Bakery, and dipping oils from Olivina Taproom, the establishment is far from a full-service restaurant.
“I think we are different than all the other places that are in downtown Delaware, which makes us a perfect fit for downtown Delaware,” Kirby said. “We are a before dinner or after dinner sort of place, and I just think that fits in perfect with all the great local establishments that are here in the downtown area.”
Another unique offering Kirby is looking to capitalize on is a section of the establishment known as the Barrel Room, which he said is “for rent literally every day of the week.”
He added, “There is not a lot of rentable space in downtown Delaware, so we are excited to be able to offer that.”
Kirby said he would be remiss if he didn’t mention how welcoming city residents and officials have been.
“What I’ve come to know is Delaware loves their local businesses, which is truly what we are with us producing the product right here,” he said.
As for city officials, Kirby said inspectors and the economic development staff have been “spectacular to work with.”
He added, “When you purchase a commercial building and are trying to get it open for business, they (city officials) don’t necessarily have to be helpful, but they wanted our business and wanted us to be here. That’s essential to having a great, thriving downtown, and Delaware has it for sure.”
Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.