As the caffeinated followers of Starbucks cheer the news that the coffee behemoth may soon add alcohol to its menu, David Gwathmey, MBA ’06, has one thing to say: been there, done that—and rather successfully, we might add.
“I’m flattered,” he says of Starbucks’ plans. “It looks like Grape + Bean all the way!”
Gwathmey, a longtime veteran of the restaurant business, is the proud co-owner—along with wife Sheera Rosenfeld—of Grape + Bean in Alexandria, Va. Open since 2008 in the historic heart of the city, the tiny yet comfy part-coffeehouse and part-wine bar has been a big hit among the area’s crowds of workers, residents, and tourists—recession or no recession.
“Grape + Bean is rockin’!” says Gwathmey. “We’ve come a long way in two-and-a-half years, despite the downturn in the economy.”
Formerly a consultant, Gwathmey said the idea for Grape + Bean arose after witnessing a multimillion dollar renovation take place at a nearby hotel. “We saw that there was an opportunity in Alexandria for a high-quality and low-pretense place you could walk to,” he recalls.
From there, he put his checkbook to work and hammer to hand and turned the space into what it is today — an inviting space where warm colors and comfortable furniture create a homey atmosphere that beckons guests to linger. One key to making Grape + Bean successful, he says, is diversifying the shop’s revenue streams, which is why they sell wine and coffee, as well as serve lunch and dinner and host and cater events.
Seeing his one shop take off, the plan now is to grow Grape + Bean throughout the area. “One or two” more locations may pop up as soon as 2011, he says. There are even a couple students in Mason’s MBA program who are helping Gwathmey find financing to expand.
This entrepreneur is not shy in showing his enthusiasm for where coffee and wine, or what he calls the “liquids of life,” have taken him. “I’m just living the dream!”
Grape + Bean is at 118 South Royal Street; phone is 703-664-0214.