Don Siedhoff might have done too good of a job fixing up his wine shop in Old Town Square. The handsome red brick exterior, coupled with an interior that resembles an Old World wine cellar, convinces some people that all of the vino sold inside must be high-priced.
In fact, Beyond Napa carries more than 100 wines priced under $20, many in the $10 to $15 range favored by many casual wine drinkers.
"The biggest hurdle is we look upscale," Siedhoff said.
Then again, what would you expect from Siedhoff, who's made his living for 32 years as a commercial photographer and videographer and whose family built some of downtown Wichita's best-known buildings, including the Broadview Hotel and Grant Telegraph building?
Siedhoff opened Beyond Napa last June, deciding to go it alone when a projected partnership didn't work out. He had space available in the building he uses for his Rock Island Studios, and his shop would be the only liquor store in Old Town. Siedhoff spent 10 months designing the interior.
To manage the shop, he hired Tom Messman, a longtime wine enthusiast who'd been working in advertising.
"About six or seven yeas ago, my palate exploded," Messman said. "I stopped smoking. All of a sudden I was tasting things I had never tasted before."
The location was immediately a hit with residents of nearby apartments and condos, Messman said.
"They were like, 'All right, we've got our liquor store. When are you going to open a Laundromat?' " Messman said.
Business from other parts of the city hasn't been as brisk, Siedhoff said, blaming a lack of parking and misconceptions about the store.
To counter those factors, Beyond Napa has aggressively joined the city's wine scene, hosting tastings, participating in events like Final Friday and last week's Winefest Walkabout and sending out daily specials on Twitter and Facebook. (To comply with state liquor regulations, events are held in Rock Island Studios.)
Beyond Napa takes a different approach to selling wine from many liquor stores, where cases of the same wine are stacked up for volume sales. Siedhoff calls it a boutique specializing in small-production wines from around the world — not just familiar names from Napa Valley, this country's best-known wine-producing region. Messman cites Graffigna, an Argentine label that sells for under $20 a bottle, and B Cellars, a Napa producer that goes for about $50 a bottle, as favorites among the shop's current inventory. There's also a beer cooler (tucked away in a side room) and a limited number of spirits for sale.
One byproduct of the boutique approach is a plethora of interesting labels, from "Mad Housewife" and "Plungerhead" to "Orin Swift the Prisoner" and "Bad Boy Red." But Messman said it's all about "the juice" inside the bottles.