Wine as a Business Opportunity in Downtown Detroit

As downtown continues its resurgence, many businesses and people are moving in. According to the latest 7.2 SQ MI report ( 77 new restaurants and 41 retail outlets have opened in the downtown-area since 2013. The report also states 1,258 new housing units being built and nearly 1800 units being renovated for the same period. According to a recent Detroit Free Press report, 1000 apartments are expected in 2016, with developers believing there’s a potential demand for another 3000-5000 units.

And the Detroit District continues to take shape with its anchor project, the Red Wings arena, scheduled to open for the 2017 NHL season.

As an entrepreneur, this increase in housing and entertainment demand downtown translates into potential business opportunities.

To wit, the House of Pure Vin (HOPV), which recently opened on Woodward Avenue, is proof there’s a demand for new businesses downtown based on demand, research and offering high-quality products.

Detroit-native, Regina Gaines, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and MSU’s Master’s of Laws program, is the President and Managing Partner at Laughter in the Sun, LLC, which owns HOPV. Gaines, along with business partners, Dr. Andrea Dunbar and Terry Mullins, recently decided it was time to invest in a revitalizing core by launching a signature retail destination for wine lovers and connoisseurs at 1433 Woodward Avenue, in downtown Detroit.

I sat down with Gaines to ask her for thoughts on opening a new business in Detroit.

Lee: Last year, you finished second in a Hatch Detroit contest. Did you use that experience to fuel your motivation for starting a business?

Gaines: We were a semi-finalist as part of the Hatch Detroit contest. We did not finish second in the Hatch contest, but did finish first in the 2014 TechTown Retail Bootcamp. It was a fantastic experience being a part of both of them. It provided an outlet for us to be heard and experience the new opportunities in Detroit. Truth, we have the luxury of having to benefit from both programs. The support still continues. We keep contacts at those organizations on our rolodex. They never deny us access to any services or guidance in guaranteeing that our business is heading in a great direction.

Lee: What did you learn going through the Hatch Detroit experience?

Gaines: I learned about hatch by researching different grant and incentive programs in Detroit and Michigan specific. My partners and I have extensive background in research and project developments. So, is is not hard for us to follow a road map to the yellow brick road for success. A lot of the programs in Michigan and Detroit have written the script to how to make it. So, if you have a great innovative idea and follow the leader then it is a great possibility that you will get to the end of the road successfully.

Lee: You and your business partners decided to come back to Detroit and open up a business in your hometown. Why?

Gaines: I have been back in Detroit since 2007. My partner, Dr. Andrea Dunbar and I graduated from higher education around the same time. We both saw it was numerous opportunities out of the state, but saw a movement going on in Detroit that spelled revitalization. We wanted to participate. We paid attention to the trends and got in at ground level. It was just a huge instinct and very educated guess. As single mothers, we both have an opportunity to build a legacy for our daughters. Single mothers are not necessarily a positive label coming from our era. But, it was one we both selected and knew we had to take responsibility for by giving and creating opportunities that’s forfeited under these type of situations. We make no excuses. We just did what we needed to do. We wear both caps and pulled up our big girl pants to make a way for our daughter’s future. She is totally excited and proud. It gives hope and reassurance that everything is possible when putting your heart and all into the right purpose and egos are checked at the door.

Lee: And why did you decide to focus on wines?

Gaines: Wine is a passion of Andrea’s. I had the know-how by crafting a career in the Spirits and Wine Industry. I think with passion, “know how” and a little of common sense from Terry, we thought we could create something great. Not to mention, it is an industry here in Michigan. I personally had the desire to expand knowledge of the Michigan Wine Industry. We have Claudia Tyagi, Master Sommelier, in Michigan with a similar desire. Collectively, we felt that this synergy could put this industry on the map.

Lee: You had your grand opening in December. What makes shopping at the House of Pure VIn an unique experience and what can customers expect when they visit?

Gaines: Our shopping experience is that consumers get to engage and learn wines as they are shopping. We allow them to be be comfortable and have the right conversation with the right people on the topics surrounding wine that interest them. So, the experience is simple and educational, but most important enjoyable and fun.

Lee: With new employees and residents, downtown is currently experiencing a resurgence. With this in mind, who’s your target audience? And can those not in the downtown area order online and have the prodcuct(s) shipped?

Gaines: Our target audience is everyone. This is what makes this venture fun. We are serving people over 21 that are future and current wine connoisseurs. It is open to all. However, we are targeting tourists that wants to know more about the Michigan’s wine industry. This is something we do put emphasis in when engaging with consumers. Our mindset is everyone is a tourist trying to explore something different and exciting in Detroit.

Lee: What advice would you give to those starting a business?

Gaines: My advice is research, build a bond with your partners and understand the business atmosphere that you’re going to establish. Environment is everything. If you are not talking the right language to your consumer audience, you can get lost in the revitalization.

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