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The Entrepreneurship of Building the Best Wine Cellar

The Entrepreneurship of Building the Best Wine Cellar
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Once strictly for the rich and famous, wine cellars are popping up in homes across all income levels.

Thanks to America’s love of wine and the web, the ease of acquiring wines -- and as a result, showing them off -- has made wine cellars an integral part of the home. Heck, in some circles, the size of the cellar has even become competitive.

As a result, building those cellars has created long-time work for some skillful entrepreneurs.

Take Joseph Kline and Curtis Dahl. They actually traded together at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange back in the 90’s. As a way to unwind after work, Kline would tinker in his garage and build things. One day, he built a small wine cellar in his home.

Dahl was so impressed when he saw it, they decided to launch a website and take a shot.

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Business took off and by 2003 it was too hard to build cellars on a part-time basis.  They chose to leave trading and founded Joseph and Curtis Custom Wine Cellars.

Flash forward, they are building cellars that start at $30,000. And while the guys are from the tri-state area, Miami now is their second-biggest market. They have built as far as Costa Rica and have worked with celebrities like Buddy Valastro, a.k.a. the Cake Boss, and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.

But cellars aren’t only for the uber wealthy. Chris Giantamidis’ cellars start at $10,000. Giantamidis was a remodeler when, back in 2005, a client asked him to build a wine cellar. Then he, too, started getting multiple requests for other cellars. So he dove in fulltime and founded Cava Wine Cellars

Granted, $10,000 is still not cheap. But the price gets up there pretty quickly because the space you choose must be insulated and you will need a cooling system that often starts at $2,500.

And that’s why the recession was tough. Clearly it takes discretionary income and many didn’t have it during the financial crisis, says Giantamidis.

But the high-end projects didn’t really stop. “As a matter of fact, business held steady,” says Dahl.

Because what better place to for the rich to spend their money than in a basement cellar that no one could see and fill it with expensive wines?  I'm sure you recall that it was practically in bad taste for them to flaunt their wealth during the recession, “They didn’t want the signs on the front lawn while we were building, but business was still good,” says Dahl.

And while the Tuscan-style cellar with dark wood and stone is still a favorite, builders and their clients are getting creative. They’re turning closets into cellars, building them off the kitchen and using materials like seamless glass, acrylics and LED lighting.

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But thankfully, business is good again -- for everyone.

So good that now people are paying experts to fill their cellars, too. “One of the biggest things we love doing for both collectors and regular customers is to help them find wines they love to fill their cellars,” says Dahl, who says the most expensive cellar they built was $200,000 and held 11,000 bottles.

Kathleen Bershand, founder of the Fine Wine Concierge, is doing the same. She started her business when her father-in-law asked for help finding a special bottle. After years of being a sommelier and wine writer, she realized there was a niche business here, and, for $75 to $100 an hour, she, too, will help you find wine.

Or offload it. “When people move, they often don’t want to move all that wine as well,” says Bershand. So she can help find buyers.

One day, when I finish putting my three kids through college, I, too, hope to have a cellar (although the college process no doubt will require a lot of wine drinking so their may not be wine left to store). Until then, I will continue to be amazed and impressed that so many entrepreneurs have found a way to make a living surrounded by wine.

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