Rodney Brown, of St. Louis Park, stands amazed in his Golden Valley wine shop, Cedar Lake Wine Company.
“If anybody would have told me in 1992, (when I moved to Minneapolis), that 25 years later I would own my own wine store, I would say, ‘You’re out of your mind,’” he said.
Brown and his brother and business partner, Gary, purchased the former MGM Wine & Spirits at the corner of the Golden Valley Shopping Center on Olson Memorial Highway.
In 18 days they transformed the store with new shelving, signage, paint and carpet.
The store opened on April 21 and includes spirits, beer and approximately 2,000 types of wine, most of which are hand selected by Brown.
“I’ve done the leg work to find the best of whatever it is I can find,” he said.
But the store is about more than its products, according to Brown. It is about the experience. The company slogan says it all, “Where the experience matters.”
“That’s two-fold,” Brown explained. “We want (our customers) to have a pleasant shopping experience. The store, colors, carpet, the way it’s organized. I want people to come in and not feel like they have to come in and get out. They can if they want. But if they want to come in and kind of hang around and take their time, I want it to be relaxed.”
“The other part of the experience is the experience that I have working in this building,” he continued. “Myself, my staff, we know what all these things are and we can have an intelligent, easy-to-understand conversation with the customers about what we have here. What they like, what they don’t like, different price point things. One of the key components of what we do here is we listen.”
As part of the experience, the store will offer free samplings 5-7 p.m. every Friday. Samplings will change week to week and may include craft beer, whiskey or wine.
Brown’s interest in wine and spirits began in 1995 when he worked at MGM Wine & Spirits in Chanhassen.
“When I came to look at this store when it was for sale, it was almost like déjà vu,” he said. “A lot of stuff had not changed. It had the same feel.”
Over the next 22 years, Brown worked at a restaurant, a wine shop, Haskell’s and Lunds & Byerlys.
It was at Haskell’s he was deemed “the wine guy” by his customers.
“People ask me, ‘How do you get to be the wine guy?’” he said. “And I tell them, ‘Completely by accident.’ It’s been good. It’s been a really interesting career.”
Brown enjoyed learning about the different wine producers, countries and grapes. Now, he loves sharing that knowledge with customers, the customers who encouraged him to open his own store.
“That was really the premise of starting this store was helping educate people that there’s lots and lots and lots of really cool stuff out there that a lot of people aren’t exposed to,” he said.
Brown hopes his store will become a destination within the community.
“The way that (it) will become a destination is that we’re going to offer the guests competitive pricing, a really interesting selection of things and knowledgeable staff,” he said. “We’re not ever going to be a big box store. We’re a family-owned shop. It’s always going to be an intimate setting.”
Aside from being “the wine guy,” Brown is a husband, father to his 13-year-old daughter and vintage motorcycle collector.
“I’ve had motorcycles on and off since I was 13,” he said.
As a teenager, Brown’s father bought him a Honda mini bike. As an adult, when Brown decided to start collecting, the first motorcycle he bought was a 1971 Honda mini bike. He now owns three, all of which are displayed in his family room.
Currently, he has nine bikes in his collection.
Brown has also spent the past 13 years collecting port wines for his daughter to enjoy when she turns 21.
On June 7, Brown stood at store’s front counter, still astounded that the wine shop is real, and reflected on the circumstances that led him there.
“The really interesting thing about all of this is how you never know where something is going to lead,” he said.
Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]