Five years ago, the Bacchus Wine Shop was a new small business in an economy that was recovering from recession. Still, husband and wife team Ed Kountz and Linda Pallone had a dream to bring a full-service wine and beer shop to Hiawassee, Georgia. Their idea encompassed both a desire to carry as broad a selection as possible and for the staff to give advice on gifts and wine pairings.
Since then, the wine shop, located on Hiawassee’s North Main Street overlooking Lake Chatuge, has served as a medium between award-winning Georgian wineries and the tables on which their smooth vintages are served. Known by its patrons for its spectacular selection and unbeatable southern hospitality, the staff makes it their mission to listen to customers and then suggest custom wine and beer pairings for whatever they might be celebrating.
According to Kountz and Pallone, the shop is doing well despite it catering to what they called a “seasonally-driven market.” Advertising has been a boon for business, and the shop’s ads can be found anywhere from billboards to Instagram. “[We are] proud to be a mainstay in Hiawassee, and a business with both a positive reputation as well as one that has become a destination for folks living in or visiting the area,” Kountz said. “Getting the word out about a small business isn’t always easy, but we come at it from all angles.”
While the main shop offers everything from gift baskets to a sea of beverage selections, the newly-built growler shop offers customers a way to taste beers before committing to a large purchase. Bacchus Beer and Growlers held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 31, 2015, with 11 different brews on tap available to the local area. This was particularly ground-breaking because, according to the Towns County Herald, Hiawassee had only just amended city ordinances to allow growlers that March.
Growlers present a unique opportunity for beer aficionados: the ability to have beer straight from the tap at home. The growler shop expansion has given Kountz and Pallone a way to let customers taste beer the way it was meant to be, wherever home might be. Visitors are encouraged to taste and choose from more than a dozen beers on tap, including well-known brands like Stone and local brews such as Terrapin, which is currently offering a special cranberry pumpkin beer. Kountz and Pallone refer to themselves as “special order experts,” and they are proud to offer their services when it comes to tracking down certain vintages or brews. In fact, they order many different items their customers might have a taste for, including cigars. The shop offers a wide selection of craft brews but can supplement with special-order kegs as needed. “We love helping someone who then becomes a regular,” Kountz said.
Ordering a custom gift basket from the shop is yet another way to take advantage of the staff’s expertise, as the baskets are fully customizable for any occasion, while the co-owners also pander to customer needs depending on the season. The Bacchus Wine Shoppe and Bacchus Beer and Growlers serve a unique purpose in making both local and imported brews available to the community.
“Starting a small business is never easy,” said Kountz. “But after five-plus years we are proud of this and our recent expansion and grateful for the support we’ve received along the way.”