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We'll Miss You, DB!

Oh, Bowie. You were my beginning...

Everyone has their Bowie story and here is mine. Back when my parents were married in the early 70's, (40 years ago!) they went on a long a vacation to Mexico and left my brother and me with friends of theirs, the Battles.

They had kids too, all boys. In my memory, there were like 12 of them but I would guess maybe four, the youngest still older than me. I was the only girl but everyone was super nice and cool but really, they mostly ignored me.

The oldest son was Tommy and I remember slowly walking by his room which was covered wall to ceiling with posters of bands. Did he have a black light too? For sure in my memory.

One day, Tommy let me come into his room and bask in the glory that was a homage to music. I remember being overwhelmed by all the images but one poster mesmerized me. It was David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. Bowie was in a one shoulder sequins dress with a nipple exposed. I was so confused and amazed all at once.

Tommy played a record (and I don't remember if it was Bowie or not but it would be a better story if it was) and then sent me out the door. For a moment, I felt like I got it. I understood.

And then I started buying records. I started, of course with 45's because those were only .99 cents. I bought a lot of pop ... Haley Mills, the Monkees, and a whole lot of crap (Convoy anyone?) But I also bought some Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and David Bowie.

I was 10 when I first had enough money for a full album. I went to the music store and, like most people choose wine, picked an album based on the cover. It was Peter Frampton Live. And it rocked my world.

I've been a music lover ever since and feel so lucky to have music as a major part of my life both at home where Paul and I play our albums nearly everyday  to my job where I have the pleasure of hosting fabulous live musicians every week. Some, like No Reason, even play Bowie and it is awesome.

Cheers to you Bowie. Your face, your race, the way that you talk. I kiss you, you're beautiful, I want you to walk.

What We're Drinking This Week

I am really excited about this week's featured wine list! We've got the MAW best-sellers Dashwood, Moobuzz and Smith & Hook available by the glass. New wines include the Grillo, La Cartuja Priorat and Jelu Malbec! All really super.

But I am most excited about our top-shelf wine, Gioranta 2013 Aglianico. Giornata is a dynamite winery owned by Brian Terrizzi and his wife Stephanie. (They also own Broadside - another MAW favorite.) They create wines from Italian grapes grown in California. 

There is only 1 acre of Aglianico planted at French Camp. The property is SIP certified and employs a falconer at harvest (instead of netting), uses compost teas, and uses cover crops. Rainfall is scarce (even for Paso Robles), so irrigation management is key to keeping the berries small. Only 48 cases of this unique and delicious wine were made!

Those Sweet 88s

I would feel remiss if I didn't have a post about the passing this week of Mark Moore.

Mark came into Market Alley Wines just after we opened in 2011. He had just played a gig at a local nursing home that day, went to library, then took a walk downtown where he stumbled upon MAW and came in for a look-see.

He told me he played the piano and asked for a gig at the wine shop. I was a little freaked out. First, because I didn't know a thing about booking musicians (live music? WHAT?!) and second, because I didn't know a thing about Mark. But I did have a piano so I figured I could give it chance.

Long story short. Mark was our first regular musician and played monthly for over four years and most recently bi-monthly with bassist Martin Sheridan for the past year. 

Mark was a talented musician who loved playing American Standards. He rarely played a set without throwing in a Christmas Carol or two ... even in the spring and summer. To say he was an odd duck is putting it mildly but Mark always marched to a different beat.

I didn't know much about Mark's personal life but I can say with earnest, he was a great pianist and I was lucky to see first-hand how his music gave so much joy to so many people - including us. He will be missed.

Wow, Check Out the New Website!

Did you know I used to make a living as a writer? It's true! You would not know it from this blog though as little as I update. Paul and I are super excited about this new website he built (cute AND talented!) and I am pledging to update both with entertaining blog posts and great recipes we love! 

So check back here often and as always, thank you all so much for your love and support!


Today, June 7, 2012, marks our one year anniversary of Market Alley Wines. And what a year it has been!

I am often asked why I opened a wine shop in Monmouth. The answer is both complex and quite simple.

After leaving my job in journalism, I was really at a crossroads on what to do with the rest of my life. We started toying with the idea of opening a business. We talked about things we were passionate and knowledgeable about and wine was at the top of the list.

We also did our homework. Paul had access to an extensive study the city of Monmouth commissioned a few years ago that analyzed consumer markets, spending habits and lifestyles in specific areas. To sum it up, we found residents of Monmouth spent a whole lot of money on wine. And they spent a whole lot of money on wine outside of our area. Frankly, so did we.

The idea came together pretty quickly after that.

Paul and I both have been wine enthusiasts for years and love going to wine bars wherever we travel. One of the earliest I remember is Webster's in Chicago which opened in 1994. But wine bars go back as far as the 1890's with the opening of Gordon's in London.

Here is Paul at Nine One Five Wine Bar in Key West several years ago. Doesn't he look happy? Flights are a good thing!

Wine bars are nothing new even in this area. Regionally, there are some great wine shops too that all are unique in their own way. The Wine Sellers in Macomb has been in business for nearly 10 years and really set the benchmark in this area for great service and a great selection of wine. The Grape Life in the Quad Cities is really beautiful and welcoming. Aledo has a wine shop which I haven't been to yet but have heard wonderful things about. There are wine bars within driving distance in Quincy, Galena, Galesburg, Le Claire, Iowa City and Muscatine to list a few.

We visited a lot of wine shops and took notes about things we loved (flights, comfy chairs, copper countertops) and things we didn't (dusty bottles, lack of menus, poor service).

I also was inspired some other non-wine shops. Calico Cat in Galesburg has long been a favorite shopping destination of mine. The store has always carried great merchandise but it is the customer service that makes it a stand out. Theresa, who managed it for ages, always went out of her way to get to know her customers and their tastes. I knew when I walked into the "Cat", I would be shown new items that were just up my alley.

Innkeepers in Galesburg was another place I drew inspiration on. An absolutely beautiful space, the coffee shop/restaurant quickly became a destination spot for people to meet and gather. Monmouth lacked a "destination" so creating one was something I felt the community would really support.

All in all, Market Alley Wines is a complicated stew of inspirations, ideas and love. There is also the "Susan" factor which, honestly, if you haven't experienced it, is kind of hard to explain!

I never get tired of people telling me how beautiful our shop is and how wonderful their experiences are there. I am so, so pleased my community has embraced not only the wine shop but me as well. I am also thrilled how many people really love wine and are growing and learning more about it all the time. We don't get mad when our customers experience other wine shops ... we love that too! Loving wine is what it is about.

Sure, it took cajones for Paul and I to open a small business in our small town in a struggling economy. But it has taken the love and support of this great community to make us a success.

So today on our one year anniversary, I raise a glass of wine to YOU and give you thanks from the bottom of my heart.

I can't wait to break out year number 2 on you!! We are going to have a BALL!

This Is Retail Video Competition

On February 19, 2012 at 8:10 p.m., I sent the following email (in its entirety) to Paul:

We should totally do this:


Yeah. So Paul brainstormed a bit and thought it would be cool to get some live shots of our shop in action. On March 6, “No Reason” was playing a gig and the house was packed. Paul stopped the band and told everyone we wanted to tape them. I would say a line or two outside then we would both step back inside the store at which time everyone would raise their wine glasses and cheer. 

Easy enough, right? It took me about 5 minutes and 40 takes to say one sentence (the word “rural” gets me every time!!) My frustration is shown at the beginning of our bloppers reel:


Paul had every single person in the shop that night sign a release (although they were never requested by the NRF). Later, at the reception dinner for the finalists, everyone thought that first shot was staged which I found quite funny!

I taped the shot of Donna (well, actually two) and Paul did the taping of Joyce, Dee Ann, Tamy, Nicki and Chad on the following Friday. Paul did all the editing on his Mac, recorded the awesome blues soundtrack and coached me on the voiceover. He even made me a sandwich so I guess he did catering as well!

Fast forward. We made the top 40. We thought we probably would get that far. Then came word we made the top 20 and the real work began. Voting. We made the top 10. Our competitor in that round got disqualified for cheating so we made the top five. Then I got the call we were in the top 3. WINNERS!!

Seriously, I have only ever owed $10,000. To think I would be winning that much was astounding.

Between local radio, newspaper and television coverage, we had over 40 contest related news items about MAW. Over 40. And there at least two more coming this week! (All the news coverage is linked on the front page of our website under MAW Buzz.)

Flash forward to May 15. I closed the shop for three days and Paul and I hopped a couple planes to D.C. After check in for the conference, I had a video interview and some crazy cat walk photo shoot that I hope doesn’t come back to haunt me.

The NRF is launching a 60-day campaign on e-fairness and they believe it is retailers like us who can best tell the story of retail.

Here I am in a full page ad in Politico:


Paul and I decided to take a break and have a glass of wine and there we met Kim and her husband Mike from Polka Dot Press. 

Kim and I both suffered with the “what to wear” syndrome but I think we both pulled it off just fine. 

Next a rehearsal for the next morning’s awards ceremony. Then a cocktail party and dinner reception for all the Leadership Conference attendees.

Here I am with Tanna and Kim at the reception:

I sat next to Bill Brand, Home Shopping Network VP, who was the most delightful dinner guest I could have imagined. We are the same age and he was a former journalist and I think we kind of bonded! Also met his boss, CEO Mindy Grossman, who wore the most delicious high heeled shoes without once giving a wince. In her world, that is nothing. In my world, it’s a “GO GIRLFRIEND!”

On Wednesday, we were up at 5:30 a.m. I knew I would be nervous so wanted to write my acceptance speech notes. Not that it mattered.... Got to the breakfast at 7 and choose to eat sparingly. 

And then it hit me. After only two bites of fruit ... it hit me. “I’m in Washington D.C. I have won. My little store, in my little community, in my dysfunctional state. I am really here with all these wonderful, successful people.” 

I could feel it instantly well up inside of me... sort of like that hot acidic wave you get before you vomit. The tears started welling in my eyes and we still had 20 minutes to go. I knew I was doomed.

When Bill Brand called my name for third place, I was thrilled. Of course we all wanted first, but this was WINNING. Here I am with my BIG CHECK:

They had the BIG CHECK and everyone was applauding and I had to give my speech. Here is what I wrote:

I would like to thank the NRF for this wonderful opportunity. Believe me when I say I have received more publicity than this check could buy. Thanks to my family for their love, hard work and support. Special thanks to Paul for your inspiration, undying enthusiasm, love and perpetual "atta girls". Together we are a force.

I am honored to be in the final three with Tanna and Kim ... who are both inspirations and great business models for future entrepreneurs. 

Mostly, I want to thank my loyal customers and community for their unflinching devotion. I said on my video that that leaving my career for retail was the best decision I ever made and it is true. Retail has changed my life for the better in so many ways. And I also think my business has changed the lives of many people from our community for the better. I took a chance on opening up my small business in my small town in a bad economy and my community took a chance on me. Sure, retail means jobs but it also means a chance for happiness, revitalization and growth. How is that for awesome?

But here is what I said:

“Thanks ... sob, sob ... Thanks ... I need a Kleenex ... sob, sob. “ Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad but I did blubber quite a bit!

I did a couple quick interviews before we were whisked away to Capital Hill. Ellen Davis, a Galesburg native and NRF Sr. VP, was our escort for the day. We got a chance to meet her husband Chad who is a Monmouth College graduate.

It was so exciting (and exhausting and HOT!) Senator Durbin’s office had the most wonderful travel posters including one from Bishop Hill (where Mom and Jerry live.) "More Swedish than Hilly". heh. Congressmen Schimkus and Schilling were most accommodating and delightful.

Paul photo-bombing the Capital shot. Seriously, can you find him in this photo?

I bought a new bra with a metal clasp that set off alarms everywhere we entered. Good times indeed.

Finally, the three finalists, Tanna, Kim and I, all met back up on the steps of the capital for a final photo shoot. I was antsy because wine awaited for us at another reception!

Finalists photo shoot:

Tanna and Kim were both so gracious and savvy business women. Each month, Tanna pairs with a local not-for-profit and donates a portion of her sales to that organization. I would love to do that in Monmouth. 

Finally, all the finalists and our loved ones were treated to a spectacular dinner at “Occidental Wine Room”.

For some reason, I got to choose the wine! It was a really expensive wine list so I tried to keep it reasonable. All the white wine lovers had never had a Sancerre and it was a hit!

Ellen and Margaret (our event coordinator whom we all thought from her emails was in her 60s but was a fresh faced 20-something dynamo) planned a night tour of some sights. By this time, we were all completely exhausted, but Paul and I were flying out the next day and knew this was the only time to sight see.

Here we are at Lincoln’s Memorial:

Ellen escorted us through the Vietnam Memorial and Korean Memorial. Amazing. Then our bus driver took us by a few other sites ... Iwo Jima (like four times) and a small part of Arlington National Cemetery.

We got back to the hotel just after midnight and everyone hugged and said our goodbyes. 

The next day, we slept in a bit then grabbed a cab into the city. Taking Susan T’s suggestion, we went to the rooftop at the W. What a view.

Rooftop at the W, with the White House in the background:

Then to Ebbitts for the best raw oysters we’ve ever had. We even had some for dessert. Not kidding.

Here I am eating the best oysters ever!

Now we are back home with a whopping $10,000 check but experiences and adventures that are priceless. The NRF rolled out the red carpet for us and everyone treated us like VIP's. 

As I write this tonight, I am sitting on my patio watching the cardinals and sparrows and rabbits strut around my yard. I hear more birds chirping and a mower running a block or two away.  This is my home. And I love this community.

And I am tearing up all over again, because it is the people in this community and all our friends from Galesburg, Galva, Indiana, Georgia, Colorado and all over the world, that made this all possible for us. We are truly honored by your support and hope we can continue to make you proud.

2012 looks to be a very great vintage in Monmouth.