From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
After a brief hiatus, we are back at it with our Growing in Alexandria blog! This week, we sat down with David Gwathmey, the innovate creator of BRUT Champagne and Wine Bar/ GRAPE + BEAN. With locations in two different neighborhoods of Alexandria, we talked about the successes and challenges over more than the past decade.
AEDP: To get us started, please tell us a little about your business.
David: We opened Grape and Bean in Old Town, in 2008, it is a specialty coffee and wine bar restaurant. We chose to locate a little bit off of King Street to keep it less of a touristy destination and to cater to the local population. The concept of Grape and Bean was inspired by my travels and living experiences in Spain, Italy, and San Francisco – it provides a high-quality experience in a relaxed atmosphere.
AEDP: Can you share how you got started?
David: I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years and I’ve opened restaurants for other people. I left the industry for a short while to do some consulting work, I then realized I wanted to get back into the hospitality world and so my wife and I decided to open our own place. We love turning people on to new things and love watching people have an enjoyable time – these were two of our biggest motivating factors. After the success of Grape and Bean, 10 years later we opened Brut, our champagne bar.
AEDP: What’s the next “big thing” for you?
David: I have hired someone to develop an e-commerce website so I think I will start offering delivery to Alexandria residents. This is a whole new realm for me to explore and I am excited about it.
I am also working on growing relationships with local beverage providers so we can offer our guest new and local drinks to try. We are looking into providing vegan and healthy food offerings for our guest. We are always trying to evolve and improve our experience.
AEDP: How would you describe your company’s core values?
David: We have a big emphasis on quality. We source the best ingredients which are often unique to many of our guest. For example, polvorones from Spain or artichokes from Italy or a cheese from a particular place. We invest a lot in the quality of our foods and sourcing unique and authentic items.
AEDP: Would you share about some of the success that you’ve had and how you’ve been overcoming the current pandemic?
David: Sure. We had to change from being primarily dine-in to being retail, carry-out and delivery only. Both locations had to make significant adjustments to accommodate that. At Brute, our managers were very innovative to create meals they can deliver to their customers in Old Town as well as doing wine deliveries and things of that nature.
At Grape and Bean in Rosemont, we continued with our normal menu but moved many of our tables out to allow for more retail space. We created a lot more grab and go options in addition to our carry out menu.
On top of all of that, we started doing Zoom wine tasting events with some of my wine maker friends from all over the world. We did one last Saturday and had over 100 people online we were joined by Elizabeta Fajoli from San Gimignano, in Italy. She is an 83-year-old force to be reckoned with!
Again, we stuck to our core of showing people something new, we had delivered wine bottles and cheese to our participants and they had us online to guide them through the experience.
AEDP: Finally, can you tell us why you decided to locate in Alexandria?
David: I grew up in Alexandria and my wife and I decided to move back after living in San Francisco for a number of years. My wife’s family still lives in Alexandria. We love the vibe of Alexandria; it is a great place to settle in so we took the leap to move back and buy our home and start a family.
We took a little “break” from 2016-2018, and moved to Spain for those two years. Of course, we always intended on coming back home.
Alexandria has grown and changed a lot over the years and is a great place for business.
To learn more about GRAPE + BEAN and BRUT Champagne & Wine Bar, visit their website or their stores in Old Town (118 S. Royal St.) and Rosemont (2 E. Walnut St.).