Two leaders in the ongoing renaissance of downtown Burlington as an entertainment and art district are partners in a new venture that will occupy part of the former Mary Katherine’s store on East Front Street.
Tracy Schmidt, general manager of Burlington Beer Works and Holly Treadwell, owner of The Blend and Co. are joining forces to open a wine bar in one first floor space in this historic structure once known as the United Dollar Store building. The address will be 102-B East Front Street. The building is located beside the Historic Depot.
Allen Gant III is developing the building. Renovations are currently underway on the second floor, which will become loft apartments. What will be known as Tanner’s Wine Bar will be on one side of the first floor in 1,600 square feet of space. An as yet undetermined restaurant or hospitality business will be on the other side.
The partnership is a meeting of two dynamic people in the emergence of downtown as a place to go for food, drinks and entertainment. Burlington Beer Works and The Blend and Co. are located in the same block of Front Street, across from the planned wine bar. The idea for a partnership developed during the current COVID-19 pandemic as Schmidt talked to Treadwell about possibly opening a business when the Front Street Bottle Shop and STEAM Junction closed.
Treadwell, who also expanded The Blend and Co. into the former Owl and Rabbit Gallery during the pandemic, quickly agreed. “Any opportunity to be involved with something new with Tracy is appealing to me. She’s such a force downtown,” Treadwell said.
Schmidt said the decision to form a partnership moved quickly. They developed the wine bar concept together. Schmidt has expertise in restaurant and bar operations and Treadwell in design.
“We have very similar expectations in terms of standards and how a business should look and be,” Treadwell said. “It’s cool when you meet someone you really click with creatively who also comes from the operations end while I come from an experiential design background.”
“As Holly and I started talking about our concept and what we wanted to become we decided we wanted a wine bar instead of focusing on retail. We will have wine to sell retail but it won’t be the focus of our business,” Schmidt said. “The concept is an intimate wine bar, great products, a lot of European wines with a smaller focus on California and Oregon wines.”
There will also be a small selection of craft beer utilizing the breweries in Alamance County. “We’re hoping to source from the four Alamance County breweries, one on tap and two rotating from other breweries around North Carolina. And a selection of bottles and cans,” Schmidt said.
“We see it as a high-end wine bar with an environment where people feel it’s special to come. We want to facilitate date night, a group night out or a special night out, overflow from events or before and after events, happy hours for employees at LabCorp or Glen Raven to have a continued experience downtown,” Treadwell said.
A small menu of light bites will be available. Schmidt said that might include meat and cheese boards and dips with chips. They also plan to offer desserts paired with wines for people who want something after dinner at Burlington Beer Works, Valerio’s or other nearby restaurants. It will be a spot to have glass of wine or beer before or after dinner.
The design will be unique to Burlington with a personality of its own, Schmidt said.
“I listened to a lot of (Frank) Sinatra when designing the space,” Treadwell said with a laugh. Her thoughts turned to the famous Sinatra and Dean Martin-led “Rat Pack” and 1940s and ’50s New York. “A look that’s elegant and fun but bringing it to the modern day, embracing all sorts of personalities.”
The name, Tanner’s Wine Bar, is a tribute to Bob and Kathy Hykes who are behind Tanner 318 LLC., which owns the building where Burlington Beer Works is located. Bob Hykes, who died in November of 2019, was one of downtown Burlington’s most vocal, visible and steadfast champions. Wife Kathy, a member of Burlington City Council, remains a key supporter for downtown.
“They have made a huge contribution down here and this is our way to honor that,” Schmidt said.
For Treadwell the name Tanner has almost become a personality all its own. She envisions Tanner as a “classy, fun female that lives life a little on the edge, who enjoys a glass of wine, laughing and hanging out with friends, is sexy, fun who enjoys the occasional cigar.”
When Tanner’s Wine Bar might open will largely be determined by the permitting process and how quickly the downstairs renovations are completed. Schmidt anticipates hiring six staff members to start. She is looking now for a general manager who will also be the wine director. Post-pandemic Tanner’s will likely seat 40 and be open Wednesday through Sunday, Schmidt says.
Schmidt will continue to manage the Beer Works and believes Tanner’s will be a great complement — a place for people to go and wait for a table to open up when there is a crowd at the Beer Works.
“We’ve had a long year and half at the Beer Works and the last six months of COVID. Holly and I put our heads together and decided to move forward. We have been able to put his together quickly and I’m excited for this to open,” Schmidt said.
“We’re really excited to serve and bring an experience to Burlington that we don’t feel exists, and enjoy it with the community we have,” Treadwell said. “This is integral to the continued experience in downtown. We’re expanding on what we already have to create a further experience.”