Behind the Scenes with Urban Grape
October 1, 2013
Behind the ScenesAt Work
I always seem to be drawn to young, passionate entrepreneurs. People like Hadley & her husband, the dream team behind Urban Grape, who had the wherewithal to transform their ideas into a reality. I recently had the opportunity to ask this sweet couple some of my burning questions and, I have to admit, I haven't felt this inspired in a while. Read on for tips on impressing your friends at a dinner party, an amazing inexpensive wine, and how to ignore trying to balance it all! Captured by Bellini Portraits, there's a whole lot more right here.
SMP: Tell us a little about Urban Grape:
Hadley: The Urban Grape is business that my husband TJ and I started over three years ago. It began with a boutique liquor store in Chestnut Hill, and has expanded to the South End of Boston. The idea behind The Urban Grape was to bring concierge-style service to the package store experience. When our customers shop with us they know they are perusing a highly curated selection of wine, craft beer, spirits, and sake that has been chosen for both quality, uniqueness and value. They’re led through this experience by a personable and experienced staff that helps them pick the perfect bottle for any ocassion.

SMP: How did you get your start in the wine business?
Hadley: I got my start in the wine business on October 10, 2004 when I married my husband! He came up through the restaurant and wine business and is the brainchild behind The Urban Grape. Although always a fan of wine, my background is years of work in communications for businesses, athletes and non-profits. We knew that combining my ability to sell the store itself with his ability to sell what was in it would be a surefire home run.
SMP: What’s the hardest lesson in business you’ve ever learnt?
Hadley: It’s exhausting to always take the time to check your gut when you’re making 100 decisions a day, but the only times I’ve failed at something or not seen it work like I wanted it to was when I didn’t take that pause and think – is this really who we are, is this actually in line with our brand and business goals? But those failures are good lessons, and we’ll probably never be done learning from them!

SMP: What was the most important thing you did to help grow your business?
Hadley: I think the single most important thing we did to help grow our business actually happened before we signed our first lease. We made sure we had a unique vantage point on the industry and could bring something different to our clients. If you bring creativity and passion to your business, people will reward you by loyally helping to spread the word. We’re so thankful for the way our customers spread the UG gospel – especially through social media.
SMP: Your proudest accomplishment to date?
Hadley: Obviously my marriage and our sons are my proudest accomplishments. I couldn’t do a thing without these three males in my life supporting me! More internally, I think I am proud that I have finally grown into my own skin. It can be hard as a woman in business to always believe in your own value. As I race toward the next decade in my life, I am really astonished by the faith that I have in myself. It’s been a long journey.

SMP: If you were trying to impress new friends, what wine would you bring to dinner?
Hadley: I have a Champagne problem. It’s often all I want to drink – not just because it’s celebratory and fun, but also because it goes so well with food. My husband and I travelled to Champagne last year (um, without our kids!) to see up close and personal how Champagne is grown and made. We stopped at one of my favorite producers, Billecart Salmon, and had a wonderful tour and tasting. While we were there, we tasted a wine that isn’t available in Massachusetts – the Billecart Salmon Sous Bois. Unlike most modern Champagnes, the Sous Bois is aged in oak, which gives it so much body and vibrancy. It’s a perfect food Champagne. We loved it so much that we tracked it down state-side and now will be the only retailer in MA to sell it. It’s very special to me for a lot of reasons. – so sharing it with new friends would be a win-win!
SMP: Your favourite inexpensive wine?
Hadley: My favorite inexpensive wines change with my mood, the seasons, the day…it’s hard to keep a favorite when I’m always trying so much new wine! That said, at the moment we’re on a big Burgundy kick and I’m loving the Fleur de Lys Macon-Villages Chardonnay, which we sell for $13. This isn’t Chardonnay as American’s think of it , this is Burgundian Chardonnay that is unoaked and made with great restraint. It’s bright and well-balanced and easy drinking. This falls into the “playdate wine” category for me. It’s a wine you open with another mom on a Friday afternoon while your kids play and the pizza delivery guy is on the way. The wearing of sweatpants in this moment is highly encouraged.

SMP: Do you have any helpful hints or tricks for what wine to pair with what meal?
Hadley: The best general rule of thumb is to think of wine as milk – skim, whole, heavy cream. If you are eating a very light piece of fish, you don’t want to smother it in heavy cream. So don’t go get a big oaky, buttery Chardonnay either, get something light and aromatic. If you’re eating rich short ribs steer away from skim milk (aka light-bodied wines), as it will just get overpowered. Instead, go for something with tons of body. If you start with that premise, you’ll be surprised how much you can shake up the outdated “white with fish, red with meat” adage. But at the end of the day, drink what you like and don’t worry about whether or not it “goes!”
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SMP: How do you juggle running your own business and being a busy mom of two?
Hadley: I juggle by not juggling. I let a little bit go in all areas of my life – I work out a little less then I’d like to, my house is a little less organized then I would wish, my kids stay at school a little longer then I’d like, I do a little less work every day then is actual necessary, I read too little and watch too much Bravo. And then I try to forgive myself for all of it. It’s the only way to not go crazy. I also regularly eat lunch in the shower (although am often not showered which I guess means I sometimes forget lunch too), and believe that leggings were created as a gift to the working mother.

SMP: Any tips for folks hoping to open their own storefront?
Hadley: Opening a store front is all about planning. It took us two years from hatching the idea to opening the front door. In that time we wrote and rewrote ten business plans and financial projections. But by the end we knew we could do it. All that advance planning really paid off in the end. I also believe you should have a fridge full of wine at all times. That helps too.