By Dan Whisenhunt
Before Joe Keenan bought Beer & Wine Craft, he enjoyed making wine as a hobby.
Keenan recently took over the business, which has operated at various locations since 1969, and claims to be the Southeast’s oldest wine-making supply store. In January of 2013, Beer & Wine Craft settled into a shop off Sandy Springs Circle that smells of malted honey.
The business began its life near Piedmont Hospital. Keenan keeps photos that previous owners collected depicting a time when the store’s shelves were as likely to offer knickknacks as corks. Now the store also sells ingredients to make beer and cheese.
For Keenan, it doesn’t get much better. He keeps a side cabinet stocked with a special collection of wines he’s made himself. Now he takes his love of winemaking to a new level by offering customers a chance to come in to make and bottle their own wines. It’s a process that takes three visits over an eight-week period, Keenan said.
“Our main goal is for everybody to be successful,” he said.
Keenan first started making wine in college at Purdue University in Indiana. He had a roommate from France whose father was a French industrialist. Together they made wine and consumed bottles that today he says could sell for hundreds of dollars.
“I’ve always loved it,” he said.
During the course of his winemaking hobby, he became friends with Rick and Peggy Adams, the previous owners of the business, which they sold to him in October.
Now Keenan puts his love of the craft to work, and he spends time selling products to people with similar interests. He said some customers at the store have been shopping there since the 1970s. Their business has been cultivated over the decades as the store’s ownership changed hands.
Customer Scott Rockhill, a local salesman, stopped by one recent day to see what was on the shelves. He’s been shopping at Beer & Wine Craft for three months, since he first tried his hand at making wine. The appeal? “It’s fun and it tastes good,” Rockhill said.
During Rockhill’s visit, he and Keenan chatted about the different flavors produced by the different boxes of grape juice sitting on the shop’s shelves. Keenan said what sets his shop apart from many other retailers is the clientele. Customers come in and don’t mind waiting if there’s a line ahead of them.
“Nobody’s in a hurry,” Keenan said. “They come in here and they browse.”