Joshua Walker chose the name “Wine & Company” for his soon-to-open Meeting Street shop, because “the company is a big part of what makes wine so special.” But the store’s web address is simply chswine.com.
“I think that’s so apropos that it was available,” says Walker, a veteran of the wine programs at The Woodlands and Accent on Wine (to clarify, he’s not the Joshua Walker who co-owns Xiao Bao Biscuit and is also pursuing a Meeting Street project.)
Although wine is an integral part of restaurant business on the peninsula, downtown’s retail wine scene is anemic at best. Food purveyors such as The Daily, Bull Street Gourmet, goat sheep cow and Harold’s Cabin carry small selections of carefully-chosen bottles, but The Wine Shop at the Charleston Marina is the only independent retailer specializing in wine sales.
“It’s shocking,” Walker says.
Walker describes Wine & Company as a cross between Debbie Marlowe’s Wine Shop and Bin 152, meaning customers can drink wine on site or buy bottles to take home. Wine & Company will serve cheese and charcuterie, but none of its employees are classified as servers. Walker believes the arrangement is more conducive to a laid-back atmosphere: “As Charleston becomes a big city, sometimes you feel pressure in a restaurant to leave, because the server is hovering over you.”
The system is partly inspired by the hands-off philosophy of French wine makers, whose products Walker particularly admires.
Additionally, Walker says, the cost savings associated with a leaner crew will be passed along to customers; he claims his prices will be sufficiently competitive to discourage downtowners from driving to Bottles or Total Wine & More.
“Wines start going out the door at $15,” he says. But the inventory – which should number about 400 labels when the store opens – will include wines priced up to $4000.
“It’s such a funny balance between being taken seriously and not being obnoxious,” Walker says of his aim to appeal to both knowledgeable buyers and casual drinks.
Eventually, Walker hopes to stock upward of 1000 different labels.
“We’ll have adventurous and crazy wines as you’d see anywhere else,” he says.
Although Accent on Wine, which Walker cites as a model, has two locations, Wine & Company isn’t yet in expansion mode. As a Charleston native, Walker worries about the dominance of restaurant groups on downtown Charleston’s most-trafficked streets: He remembers growing up in a city “molded by small business owners.”
“So personally, I think it’s important for us to have a presence,” he says.
If final permitting proceeds as anticipated, Wine & Company should open on Monday at 441 Meeting Street. For more information, visit chswine.com.