Monday, December 27, 2010

Cellar & Loft combines technology and old-world charm in the River Market

Posted By on Mon, Dec 27, 2010 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge Cellar & Loft is now open in the River Market.
  • Cellar & Loft is now open in the River Market.

Cellar & Loft (525 Walnut) is back.

The concept is slightly different, as is the location. It's in the River Market instead of Brookside now. But what hasn't changed is co-owner Bill Dane's passion for wine.

"I love talking to people and teaching them about wine," Dane says.

click to enlarge The downstairs cellar is open and rustic.
  • The downstairs cellar is open and rustic.

Cellar & Loft, which opened earlier this month, originated as a wine club and store known as Maggie's Attic, with locations in Kearney and Weston. Six years ago, Cellar & Loft opened in Brookside. The business was sold three and a half years later, failed to flourish and closed shortly after the sale. A second wine store, Wine, closed just after a year of operation in the space space.

Meanwhile, the wine-club business remained strong. Dane and his wife, Pat -- whose nickname, "Maggie," was the inspiration for Maggie's Attic -- and partner Eddie Kennison, a former wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs, decided to buy back the franchise. The continued success of the wine club convinced them it was worth re-opening a retail space.

"The location in Brookside was good," Dane says. "But the River Market is an area on the uptrend. This is a destination spot for the members of our wine club."

click to enlarge Cellar & Loft has one of the best bottled beer selections in town.
  • Cellar & Loft has one of the best bottled beer selections in town.
They turned to their former employee Brian Jewell, who had worked at Cellar & Loft from 2005 to 2007, to help choose the stock and manage the new River Market location. Wine afficionados might recognize Jewell from JP Wine Bar, where he was previously employed.  

The cellar in Cellar & Loft has wooden wine rocks and polished concrete floors. The cellar provides the bulk of wine storage, organized by region, along with lockers for club members. You can also grab a bit of party food -- garlic-stuffed olives, pickled asparagus, peach salsa -- from a small collection of fancy foods.

There's a large tasting space downstairs, with wine barrel tables and a select mix of high-end vodka, rye and whiskey. Jewell expects to hold two to three tastings a month for club members. The cellar has 180 different beers (including selections from Avery, Founders, Ska, Bell's and Odell) that will rotate based on season and customer preference. The beer will cost $1.50 to $2.50 a bottle; you can make your own six-pack.  

"It's like you stepped out of New York and headed back into the old world," Jewell says.

click to enlarge The street-level store front is like an urban loft.
  • The street-level store front is like an urban loft.
The loft is the street-level space. The sleek storefront has exposed ductwork and a modern mix of white and wooden shelves. Jewell has one rack with 60 wines priced under $20 for people looking for a bottle to take home or to a dinner party. There's also a small fridge that will have chilled wines and beer. Cellar & Loft does have a wine by-the-glass license, so you can sip a beer or glass of wine while browsing.

In the coming months, the shop will install two iPads between the front counters to allow club members to check themselves out. Eventually, Jewell expects that customers will be able to look up wine ratings and information about wineries, as well as receive recommendations based on past purchases.

"Wine is a friendship drink. If you want a recommendation talk to Brian. If you want to talk, come find me," Dane says.

Cellar & Loft is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It's closed on Sundays.

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