Published November 27, 2012
When the news hit the front page of the November 15th edition of The Vindicator that The Youngstown Club was closing it was a sad day for many in this valley. I was effected personally, as I have served as the club's Wine Director for 2 years and held over 25 wine and beer events there during that time. The club has a 110 year history in this city, but like so many institutions here, it couldn't adapt to the changing times and demographics of our valley and so it failed.
There is always a lot of sadness when a restaurant closes. Most importantly, lots of good, hard working people lose their jobs. The patrons (in this case members) lose a place they identify with and consider a home away from home. There is not much positive in the final days of a club or restaurant that is closing, and in the case of The Youngstown Club, I experienced this first hand. All of the work and energy I put into the events I did there seemed for nothing and lost forever. I was truly despondent. Then a trusted friend said these words to me "Sometimes when one door closes, it is so another can open".
Two days after that front page article ran, I received a call from Avalon Golf and Country Club asking if I'd be interested in the position of Wine Director. I accepeted the position the day before Thanksgiving during a meeting with Avalon owner Ron Klingle and GM Christine Bell. It is truly the most amazing turn of events in my 11 years in the wine world. The goal that Mr. Klingle has for providing world class facilities that most people can afford is entirely consistent with my vision for the company I started three years ago. The mission of Valley Vino Wine Club is to bring wine to the people so they can enjoy it comfortably, while having fun with friends and family, and without many of the pretensions associated with the world of wine. It seems that our visions and goals matched nearly exactly and so a partnership was formed with the purpose of bringing a quality wine experience to anyone in our valley who wishes to come and experience it.
The comparison of the two clubs is a study in stark contrast. Avalon with it's consistent growth and incredible dedication to continually evolving and improving their facilities and programs for its members. The Youngstown Club entrenched firmly in the past and working so hard to simply stay alive as they lost members and revenue. I must admit to being amazed at the commitment and dedication GM Katie Dodd and Chef Michael Perrell showed during these last months that the club was open. I'm quite sure they would have closed years ago had it not been for Dodd's hard work and devotion to a place she loves. In the end, it was simply not enough, and the Board of Directors simply did not have the will or the financial resources to fight the club's closing any longer. The place will be missed by many people who enjoyed its historic ambiance.
Moving forward is one of the most important things we can do as human beings after we experience a tumultous period. Valley Vino Wine Club is emerging from this challenging time stronger and brighter than ever as a result of this new partnership with Avalon Golf and Country Club. We will be doing two wine events per month at the club's fantastic locations in Sharon, PA and Vienna, OH. These events will be consitent with the vision I had when I established Valley Vino: Bring wine to the people (all the people). I am proud that Valley Vino has grown to almost 1600 people since I founded it three years ago. When you combine those 1600 with Avalon's members and my trusted partner Station Square Ristorante's avid followers, we have nearly 6000 local wine enthusaists who will be joining together for great wine and food experiences during 2013.
"Sometimes when one door closes, it is so another can open." Indeed!