By Matthew Gundrum —
Does Menomonie need another bar? Most would say no. But what about a bar built on the philosophy of genuine appreciation?
The Barrel Room wine bar is one of the newest additions to Menomonie’s Main Street strip. Owners Rick and Mary Bygd opened the establishment in August 2014.
Rick, a former electrical contractor, and Mary, currently employed at Menomonie’s Mayo Clinic, established MR Wine LLC two years ago in the name of their shared love for wine. However, the LLC alone was not a complete manifestation of this love.
So when they saw the “for sale” sign in the window of a Main Street business space, they took the next step.
But careful, calculated moves were made to determine Menomonie’s readiness for a wine bar. “It took us a good six months of primary research,” said Rick in regards to the preparation process. “It was a lot of work and we had an extensive business plan because there’s not a lot of banks standing in line around here wanting to borrow some more money to open up another bar in Menomonie. “
But is the Barrel Room just “another bar”? University of Wisconsin–Stout hospitality professor, Peter D’Souza, doesn’t think so.
“I was excited,” he said in response to the establishment’s opening last year. “Let’s put it this way, it was overdue. It should’ve been there 10 years ago.”
D’Souza, a scholar in wine and spirits, believes that the establishment’s presence is critical to facilitating a culture that prioritizes a desire for appreciation over a desire for intoxication. It is this dynamic that makes The Barrel Room unique in Menomonie.
The owners feel the same way.
“It’s sort of this relational drink,” said Mary, referring to the social qualities of wine. “It’s not like going out and having a beer. You get engaged in conversation and you sit and relax.”
This viewpoint is one-half of the force behind The Barrel Room’s push to be a sought-after outlier in the community. The other half is the establishment’s highly collaborative spirit: guest chef co-ops with Stacked Eatery restaurant, serving desserts from Marion’s Legacy cafe and guest server events with the Mabel Tainter theater are just a few of the bar’s cooperative efforts.
This is the sort of work ethic that is required to successfully run a business here in Menomonie. However, the fiscal input is just as vital. The Bygd’s are especially aware of this.
“We went through a small business loan, invested $75,000 of our own money, I sold my boat and we borrowed what we could to get this business started,” stated Rick, stern in tone.
Bold, confident moves such as these paint the picture of two individuals who are strongly determined to launch their business off the ground.
But The Barrel Room is still settling in. The business is barely two years old and the owners are just now spotting trends. They’re still awaiting Menomonie’s full embrace. However, that hasn’t stopped them from thinking ahead.
According to Mary, interior redesign, retail product development and furthering the relationships with local businesses are all currently in the works. But, before all this, they’ll need to secure their own place within the jigsaw of downtown Menomonie.