End of an Era

Yvonne and James, Proprietors

Below is the text of an email I sent to our customer list on 8/30/11:
It was just a year ago that I wrote to you about how, having sold my support services business in Raleigh, Yvonne and I moved to Beaufort County in January 2000 to indulge ourselves in a retirement life of gardening, boatbuilding and basketmaking. Then we opened Wine & Words in April of 2002, the Back Bay Cafe in November 2004, and Wine & Words II (now Wine & Words...& Gourmet) in September 2005. In that previous message I announced that we were trying to sell the business because, “We're ready to pass the baton and get back to retirement before we run out of steam.”
     Now, a year later, the time has come. The current economy is not conducive to selling the business, as we had hoped, but we’re just as tired...more so, actually...as we were a year ago. So after much brain racking and anxiety, here’s what we’ve decided to do:
After Sunday Brunch service on September 25 we will be closing Wine & Words/The Back Bay Cafe in Belhaven
If you’ve ever been associated with a restaurant business you know how much work it is. And when you do it the way we have, trying to be “Always Different; Always Delicious,” creating an atmosphere of “casual elegance,” it demands everything you’ve got. For us, it has been a great run. We’re proud of what we’ve created (and learned), pleased with the many fine people we’ve met and worked with, and so very grateful for the support we’ve had from this community. But all good things come to an end, and for us and the Back Bay Cafe the time is now.
Starting September 28, Yvonne and James will be operating Wine & Words...& Gourmet in Washington.
     This is sort of “back to the future” for us. The original Wine & Words was just a small retail store in Belhaven and a project either of us could operate on our own. Then, in 2005, we formed a partnership with Fred Atwater to open a “satellite” store in Washington that was known as Wine & Words II. Fred was going to be the Washington wine guy and I’d be the Belhaven wine guy. But Fred’s job took up most of his time and finally took him away from the community, and Yvonne and I had a restaurant and two retail operations to manage. It has become too much for us, even with the wonderful help we’ve had, to keep all of those balls in the air at once. Under this new plan, we’ll go back to pooling our considerable resources and concentrating on one expanded retail store where we can offer an enhanced range of products, food demonstrations as well as wine tastings, an increased focus on the “Words” part...and a not-always-fatigued Wine Guy can start blogging on food and books, as well as wine.
We will have increased opportunities for Back Bay Gourmet catering and “Gourmet to Go” takeout food items
Remember, several months ago, when I said we were going to start doing “Gourmet to Go” in Washington? Turns out we just didn’t have the time or energy to get it going. Now we will. And for years we’ve been marketing our “Back Bay Gourmet” elegant catering...but the requests were mostly for Friday or Saturday night events. We had a restaurant to run those nights and had to turn down the opportunities. Now we look forward to doing private parties, at your place or at the Back Bay Cafe, any time you want. Watch for more on this.
Finally, the bad part - layoffs
The past two years we’ve seen an economy that has shed jobs at an alarming rate. I’ve never understood how a CEO in New York can decide that their bottom line numbers call for laying off 6,000 people. I guess it’s because they don’t know those people. That’s not the case here. We’ve only got 3 employees but they are much more than that. They are like family to us. We couldn’t have done this thing without them. Telling Mary and Sharion and Jake that their jobs are ending at the end of September was for sure the low point of the almost ten years we’ve been in business. I hate it and wish we could just go on as always, but there’s no way. All three of these wonderful people reacted with dignity and love when we told them of our decision. We can’t thank them enough.
So the bottom line message is that you have one more month - four weekends - to “come out and see us” in Belhaven. We hope you’ll come by the Back Bay Cafe for another great meal in September, thank our staff for the wonderful job they’ve done, reminisce with us about the good times we’ve had, and talk to us about what new directions you would like to see us take at Wine & Words...& Gourmet. We have much for which to be thankful.