WESLEY CHAPEL — Wine enthusiasts will soon have another choice close to home.
WineStyles, a chain of wine stores that groups wines by taste rather than country of origin or grape variety, is opening a 2,150-square-foot store at the outparcel of SuperTarget on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. That's the new strip mall with the colorful, striped awnings.
The Wesley Chapel store will feature a 1,400-square-foot indoor area that will offer 150-plus wines. Customers can buy based on eight categories: crisp, silky, rich, bubbly, fruity, mellow, bold and nectar — the sweet dessert wines. Prices will mostly range from $10 to $25 a bottle, though franchise owner Troy Melquist will have a pricier area dubbed "If You Must."
But Melquist wants to do more than sell bottles. He hopes to make the store a "third place" for wine lovers to congregate, much like Starbucks has done for coffee connoisseurs. That's why he's adding a 750-square- foot patio and offering a bar inside to encourage sipping.
"We want people to feel like Norm from Cheers," Melquist said. To open the store, he's giving up a business producing videos of championship high school athletic events because, as the father of two, he was tired of being on the road, and he is engaged to be married soon.
Melquist, 44, a former assistant baseball coach for Zephyrhills High School, toyed with the idea of a sports bar but was drawn to WineStyles because of its positive ratings on franchise Web sites. He toured a few in Orlando and was impressed.
He hopes to open in the spring, shortly after he gets county approval for selling wine. He wants customers to feel comfortable trying and buying wine, even if they are not experts.
"It's all about education," said Melquist, who grew up drinking only Sutter Home white zinfandel, because that's what he saw his parents drink.
He joins a crowded field. Cork & Olive has a store in the same strip mall as SuperTarget, which also sells wine. Village Wine & Spirits operates on State Road 56, and Publix also has a section of wine.
Melquist said several WineStyles stores operate near Cork & Olive stores and do very well. He hopes the patio, high-end desserts and cheeses he plans to offer will entice those planning for dinner at nearby Bonefish Grill or the after-work crowd.
"We want people hanging around," he said.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.