LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Carmen and Robin Spagnola opened WineStyles in San Marco Plaza in Lakewood Ranch in 2008, hoping to bring a personal and educational approach to wine lovers in the Manatee area.
Two months after they opened, however, the U.S. economy went into a recession, which affected several businesses in the shopping condominium.
One after the other, businesses left the plaza, making it nearly vacant with little consumer traffic. Optimistic the economy would improve, the Spagnolas stood strong.
On Thursday, WineStyles will officially celebrate four years of business and the fulfillment of a dream that started at a family kitchen table.
"We love it," said Robin Spagnola, 54. "It's fun. It's a happy business."
Carmen Spagnola, 56, grew up in an Italian-American household where wine, made by the men in his family, accompanied every meal. Over the years, Carmen Spagnola delved into making his own wines. By the mid-1990s, he started winning amateur competitions and was teaching wine appreciation and home wine-making at a community college while living in Connecticut.
Eventually, he was judging amateur and commercial wine-making competitions in Connecticut and around the country and the Spagnolas were hosting regional wine parties.
The Spagnolas moved to Lakewood Ranch from Connecticut in 2006. Carmen Spagnola had just retired from a 30-year career as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he served in New York and Connecticut. The following year, he and his wife committed to a goal of opening their own wine retail store.
Robin Spagnola, a project manager for various information technology companies, retired in 2010. In the past year, nearly a dozen new businesses have moved into San Marco Plaza and the Spagnolas said business is better than it has ever been.
"It was worth hanging onto a little longer with a two-fold investment," said Robin Spagnola.
The Spagnolas pride themselves on their different approach to wine sales and education. The 1,620-square-foot location offers 225 varieties of wine, categorized by the style of wine rather than location of its origin or type of grape. The couple also focused on purchasing their inventory from smaller companies to supply buyers with unique wines. Bottle prices range from $10 to 30.
"We concentrate on the characteristics of wine," Carmen Spagnola said.
The Spagnolas can tell a customer which wine matches a particular emotion, social scene or meal. "The personable one-on-one service differentiates us from other people," Robin Spagnola said.
Every Friday, WineStyles offers free wine tasting and monthly beer and cheese tasting. The store features a wine bar and also can be rented for events. "We are a place for people to educate themselves and have fun with us," Carmen Spagnola said.
For more information, visit www.winestyles.net/lakewoodranch or call 941-306-5804.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:note>