Discussion in 'Commercial Winery Forum' started by Hokapsig, Jan 27, 2016.
Hey welcome to my life Hokapsig except I don't do drunkfests....90% DTC is the way to go...
as the 1Q of 2019 draws to a close, we have made the decision to buy property for our winery and tasting room. After 5 years of looking at properties and building our business, we found a nice elderly lady with a 30 acre farm that is too much for her to take care of. A friend who is a neighbor to her notified us that she wanted to sell off 5 acres and we should go and look at the property, As we drove over, the lady was out checking her mail. We stopped and inquired about the 5 acres, to which she said, no, the 5 acres was not for sale, but the 30 acres WAS for sale. We explained our desire to own a winery/tasting room and to stop yet another farm from being turned into a housing plan. We wanted to keep t700he farm, which had been a dairy farm in her youth, as a farm. She quickly warmed to our story and our desire for a winery and to preserve the farm.
We quickly agreed on a more than fair price, and the farm includes 2 houses, 2 barns and 2 garages. We are now learning about zoning and septic systems. Since the zoning is agricultural, this fit perfectly with a winery, as we would be an ancillary business (using fruit to make wine). HOWEVER, for a winery in our township, the zoning requires that we produce over half of our wine from crops grown on site. I then informed the township that it takes 4 to 5 years to bring in a crop of grapes and that we could not comply with owning a farm with no way to recoup our costs. We were told to request a variance (as whoever wrote these rules had no clue about growing grapes). HOWEVER, it costs $700 and will take 2 months to find out if our request is granted. We are waiting for May so that our hearing can be scheduled.
However, should we get a favorable variance ruling, then we need to get on the schedule for the planning commission, which will take an additional 2 months. The site plan will cost about $12K. (a lot of money for a non-value add expenditure). We have already completed our soil test inspection (about $1K), the state inspection of the soil passed, and in PA, you need a primary septic area AND a secondary area. We have just completed the perc test and will turn in the results to the township on Monday. The septic system will cost about $80 to $120K, depending on the amount of people we want the system sized to, We initially asked for a system to accommodate 150 people, but if we want to host weddings at the winery, we will need a larger system. In addition, no wine making wastes or cleaning waters can be put down a septic system in PA (a new law in PA).
Our next hurdle is to seek access from the state highway to our winery. In the meantime, we are looking at which grapes could grow and be successful, as well as berry bushes and fruit trees, We are also looking at metal pole buildings which we can tailor into a tasting room (we want it to look like a barn so as to blend into the farm theme). We have been visiting wineries and asking questions about what is good and what to avoid, Today we spoke with a bee keeper to have him site his bees on the farm which would pollinate our crops and produce some honey. There is ALWAYS a problem that needs solving,
We are at times VERY frustrated with the system. We will be tapping in to the public water system, however, that will require about 3K in a tap in fee, plus about 500 feet of water line, plus backflow preventor. we still don't know what we don't know.
Thank you for sharing and giving insight to your journey. Sending positive energy and prayers for successful outcomes!
you have no idea what this means to us, MANY thanks for your positive thoughts.
Costs with the winery vary from location to location. I read a report that I googled that said you should budget $650K for a winery. We will be no where close to this, as we would never put our selves out there in that much debt. As I was speaking with the landowner's helper about all the costs, he relayed those sentiments to the landowner. We were very surprised when she lowered the price by $20K and told us to pay her over 5 years interest free. The winery produces enough to pay that total with just the shows that we are doing without any winery tasting room business. We were happy to accept. She must like us and our story.
Congrats and best wishes, Ho. Living the dream! (Even if that is sometimes downright scary!) Best of luck seeing your vision coming to fruition.
very many thanks!!!
I hear you with the zoning issues and having to deal with the plan commission. Everyone was helpful in getting things through the red tape, which was great. But at the end of the day I don't think a lot of it was necessary. It cost way more than I was anticipating as well. Fortunately we were able to handle the costs. Congratulations on finding the land that is going to enable you to continue to grow your business!
As an aside, I couldn't tell you how much of an inspiration viewing your story on here has been in my own journey. I think I mentioned it, but my wife and I opened our own little venture last fall after 3 years of planning and research. It was good to see and hear from you that it could be done successfully.
Congrats my friend that is a great report on your progress. We are definitely enjoying the floor corker!
Many thanks guys/ It's an awful lot of work to keep up with just doing shows and farmer's markets. Having a full winery is going to require a lot more time that is in short supply right now. And bigger equipment and more juice and bottles, And the churn continues.....
Fantastic news! Congratulations and looking forward to watching you and your winery grow.
we don't like the drunk fests, and we have learned that to shut off the tastings with 20 minutes left in the show. People just looking for more to drink and they aren't buying. We had a lady throw a snit in the last 15 minutes of a 4 hour show that only had 8 wineries. She wanted to taste before her "purchase" but where was she the previous 3 and a half hours?
Besides, we are all RAMP certified, so if you're acting like a VIP (very intoxicated person), you're not gonna be happy with our table.
We received a favorable variance request, though we now have some stipulations. First, we don't have to grow 51% of what we sell. We DO have grow grapes and berrys and we must incorporate some of those fruits into our wines. There is no percentage required or requirement for us to prove the addition. We will attempt to grow grapes and berries, just for the sake of ambiance to our winery. We must also close at 9 pm or at sundown, whichever is later. We don't have a problem with this as we don't want to live at the winery, but this may pose a future problem should we want to host weddings. Although we WILL close, we don't have force patrons out of the establishment. We don't want to become a bad neighbor, but we do want to maximize our business.
We met with an architect and structural engineer today and had a pest inspection. The termite inspection did show evidence of previous termites, but the barn is in very good shape for being at least 100 years old. Being that it hasn't fallen in yet is a good sign. We will write down the cost of renovating the barn versus putting up a new pole building. Which ever is the prudent and feasible route is the one we will pursue.
We now move on to the planning commission phase where we need to get specific for the site layout. Another $15K spent with no value add. Fortunately, sales and revenue continue to climb as we are 48% ahead of last years sales. We will apply in July to get on the docet for the August meeting and will expect an answer at the September meeting. Assuming a favorable Planning commission decision, we will then begin construction with a target of opening in the spring of 2020. There are always unforeseen costs which arise that we would have no clue to plan for these costs. We plan to cash flow this ourselves as much as possible without touching retirement funds. The winery can cash flow the land purchase.
This continues to be a big learning process for us. We have had offers from friends to help us to succeed. Our customers are ready and willing to support us. Progress is painfully slow, but as long as we move forward, its a win.
I realize the waters are still treacherous, but it is so nice to see one of out hobby-to-commercial aspirants giving it such a good go! Godspeed, Don Ho!
Thank you so much for sharing your journey, Hokapsig! I am learning so much about what I might expect on my own journey, which (tho similar to yours) is really just beginning...
Congratulations on your progress, even if it is expensive and probably slower than you'd like. You are still moving toward your dream and that is to be commended!
Just have to remember that although it is a passion, its still just business. My ultimate plan is to get the 30 acres planted (not all 30 as we have 2 houses, 2 garages, 2 barns and hopefully a wine tasting room and event center). With the event center doing weddings, the winery being the winery, and renting the space out when the winery is closed, we can still maximize our profits. Once it's up and successful, I'd like to exit by selling the entire business and move to NC. Although my son enjoys the wine shows and helping in the winery, its not his passion as of yet. Cashing out on top sounds like a smart move. I know that I could replicate what we've learned and done in NC and be successful.
Thanks guys for all the positive thoughts. They are very much appreciated.
The Plan Commission. That whole process is where I spent the most red tape money. I'm happy it is out of the way. Have you settled on the varieties you plan on planting? Will you be managing those or hiring help to take care of them?
It's encouraging to read your story and follow along with it. Keep up the great work!
What’s the Facebook page named your wife maintains?
trying to research the grapes to plant, though Concord may be the initial answer, along with the berry plants. We have to incorporate the crop into our wines and we can use some of the concord to do that, along with the berries.
Greg, check us out on Bushy Run Winery on Facebook. My wife just answers the questions we get on Facebook, as well as cleaning up my posts about the winery.
Based on your location in southwestern PA and being a meteorologist I can assure you that hybrids and native labrusca should be your dominant plantings...I'd be very leery of planting vinifera other than maybe Riesling in your region of Penn's Woods....its just too cold there. You might be interested in Crimson Cabernet which I think would do well and is very cold hardy. I would plan a vineyard there based on a regular winter low temperature of -10F with the once in a while drop to -15F which rules out most vinifera.
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