Love of independence, wine spawned business
The Bottle Shop hosts private parties, wine tastings and craft beer tastings. | Jackie Pilossph~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 31, 2012 3:11PM
WILMETTE — Ask Amy Lafontant what she loves about wine and she’ll tell you it makes people stop and sit down.
“People rush through life, they rush through everything, including meals,” said Lafontant, owner of The Bottle Shop, a beer and wine store she opened in 2005. “Wine makes you sit down and take five minutes. It makes you relax and enjoy.”
Lafontant, who has been an insurance broker for over 20 years, said her experience living in Europe, where wines aren’t heavily marketed was her inspiration for The Bottle Shop, located at 1148 Central Ave., Wilmette.
“I wanted to have a shop that had wines that were unusual and not carried in grocery stores,” she said.
The Bottle Shop carries more than 400 different wines of all types, from dozens of countries all over the world. The store also has a huge selection of craft beer and microbrews, which Lafontant said is a huge part of her business because the quality of the beers she carries is extremely high for the price points.
Kelsey Atkinson, who works at the store and does social media for the company, is “the beer specialist,” according to Lafontant and general manager, Nick Reed. Atkinson researches all the brews carried at the store, and samples them before recommending them to customers.
“I look up their scores and their history,” she said. “I also look at their IBU (International Bittering Units), which is an indication of how bitter the beer is. I like smooth beers that aren’t too hoppy.”
The Bottle Shop, which is open 365 days a year, hosts wine tastings every Saturday and craft beer tastings twice a month, where customers can sample products, enjoy appetizers and socialize. Some events are free, others are $10, but the fee is reimbursed if the customer makes a purchase.
The store is also available to host private parties, fundraisers and corporate events, with its cozy atmosphere, its ping pong table, and its large HD flat screen.
Nick Conti, of Wilmette, has been a customer for years, and said he continues to shop here because of the big selection and the knowledge of the staff.
“The people who work here make great recommendations,” Conti said, “They just always work out.”
Corporate gifts are also a huge part of the business, with the store shipping out tens of thousands of packages each year, especially during the holidays.
The Bottle Shop also offers wine and beer club memberships, as well as free delivery on the North Shore for orders over $100.
“I have so many busy customers who just call me and say, ‘I need a case of red,’” said Lafontant, “I make it easy for them. My business is such a service business.”
Lafontant, who has lived in Wilmette with her family for nine years said having her own business has been wonderful, and that she truly enjoys having a business that is all hers.
“My customers are happy,” she said, “Wine is a happy business.”