Small Business Spotlight: Purple CorkscrewSteffini Bethea ia the owner of the Purple Corkscrew in Avondale Estates. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Avondale Estates, GA — A local wine shop in Avondale Estates strives to make wine more accessible and creates a safe space for customers to ask questions. The shop encourages customers to come in and sip at their leisure. Steffini Bethea opened the Purple Corkscrew in 2012 while on her journey to try various wines.
The shop in Avondale is a cozy eclectic wine room that makes customers feel as if they were hanging out in their best friend’s den enjoying a glass of their favorite wine, according to the Purple Corkscrew website.
Purple Corkscrew grew out of Bethea’s enjoyment of wine and her travel experiences. In 2009, she took a trip to Spain where she tried different kinds of wine for the first time.
“When I came back that kind of motivated me to keep trying different wines and different varietals that I wasn’t familiar with or had never sought out before,” Bethea said.
Bethea found herself, like many others, sticking to the basic wines and not experimenting much.
“I figured there has to be more people like me that just stick to the basics. I even thought about why is it that I only drink [cabernet sauvignon] or chardonnay? The main reason was because one, I didn’t know these other varietals, but two, wine is so intimidating,” Bethea said.
She would also feel awkward going into shops and asking questions about wine. So she set out to open a shop where customers could feel comfortable saying “I don’t know,” Bethea said.
The Purple Corkscrew was open in Emory Village for three years and has been located in Avondale Estates for six years. Bethea said she enjoyed being in Emory Village but also experienced slow business when school was out so she moved to Avondale.
“The thing I liked about Avondale was that it was a small, close-knit community. It was a walking community,” Bethea said.
She did research while located in Emory Village to figure out where her customers were coming from. Bethea found that many of her customers lived in or near Avondale Estates.
“I came over here and just started looking around, checking out the other shops and it had the feel that I thought would go perfect with my concept,” Bethea said. “The concept was that I wanted people to come in and enjoy wine. I didn’t want it to be stuffy. I want my customers to feel like they’re a guest in my home enjoying wine. Avondale felt that way. It felt homey.”
The Purple Corkscrew sells a variety of domestic and international wines ranging from areas such as California, Oregon, France and Italy.
The shop also hosts wine tasting. Customers are encouraged to make a reservation to do a tasting and during the experience people can try three different two-ounce pours of wine, called a flight. Bethea said the wine shop began doing tasting again in March after not doing them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But this way really works because by offering a flight people oftentimes are trying wines that they might not have otherwise tried,” Bethea said.
During a tasting, Bethea and her staff ask customers for their preferences, go over the list of wines available, see what they might want and then make recommendations on what customers should try.
“We like to ask our customers what do they typically like to drink. What don’t they like,” Bethea said. “If they don’t like a specific wine then we like to ask what is it that you don’t like about that wine.”
“We almost always have something for everybody,” she added.
Bethea and the Purple Corkscrew wine manager, Racquel McCreary, both agreed that when buying the wine, they keep customers in mind.
“We kind of follow our customers’ lead. The way that we encourage them to get out of their comfort zone is through the flights, is letting them try something that they might not have tried before,” Bethea said.
As the manager, McCreary gets to know the customers and the neighborhood, the wine they gravitate toward, what piques their interest and also learns what’s enjoyable for everybody.
“That comes with tastings,” McCreary said. “We taste a couple of times a week and just pick out wines that we think will fit with the neighborhood, fit in with what we’re trying to accomplish here, which is making wine comfortable and accessible to everybody, and we have fun doing it.”
McCreary has worked at the Purple Corkscrew for six years and met Bethea when she started a wine club after being laid off from her accounting job.
When McCreary started the wine club, she and the other participants were learning about wine as they went and would go to different places to learn more information.
“What I loved about what Steffini was offering was that it was comfortable more than anything and wine has the unfortunate perception of being very pretentious, or it’s not for everybody, who can access it,” McCreary said. “But the environment she was creating was one of accessibility, and I think I really appreciated that more than anything.”
McCreary said her favorite part about working at the Purple Corkscrew is meeting people and encountering a variety of personalities. She added that the wine shop tries to meet people where they are in their wine journey.
“So if somebody comes in and they’re only comfortable with spending $15, we have something that will satisfy that,” McCreary said.
She also will encourage customers to try something new with the flights, but won’t necessarily push them outside their comfort zone.
“It’s gaining everybody’s trust and allowing them to be comfortable enough, so we can guide them further on their wine journey,” McCreary said.
The Purple Corkscrew is still requiring customers to wear a mask while in the shop unless they are drinking wine. The staff also sanitizes surfaces and furniture after each time customers come into the space.
“We want everybody who comes here to feel safe too,” Bethea said. “We have masks available if someone wants it and stuff like that. I think most of the businesses over here are pretty much the same way, pretty much saying you need to wear a mask unless you’re eating or unless you’re drinking.”
Purple Corkscrew is located at 32 N Avondale Road, Suite A, in Avondale Estates. The wine shop is open Monday through Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. The shop is closed on Sunday.
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