January 18, 2017
9:02 am

Lazy Ballernia Winery Headed to Bridgman

While there's already a business in downtown St. Joe with the "wanderlust" name, the ladies of the Lazy Ballerina Winery in the city's central business district have developed a serious case of their own wanderlust, and are striking off on a new adventure to the City of Bridgman next.

Co-owners Melanie Owen and Lauren Kniebes will establish a brand new tasting room in the heart of downtown Bridgman with hopes of being in place and ready to roll by Michigan Wine Month -- May of 2017. This will mark their second tasting room, joining the popular tasting room they established in downtown St. Joseph a year and a half ago in June of 2015. 

The two successful entrepreneurs gained city approval for the plan a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and Melanie's husband, Jason Hayes, purchased the former Thornburg Cafe building at 4209 Lake Street in Bridgman, closing on the deal yesterday. Melanie tells me that a few minor renovations will be made to the building to adapt to their preferences for a tasting room and they will immediately launch licensing applications with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission with hopes of opening up in May next year.

The new Lazy Ballerina Winery will feature a variety of small batch wines in a relaxing and fun atmosphere, offering wine tasting and wine flights for a small fee, wine for sale by the bottle for off premise consumption, some simple food offerings much like they provide to visitors at their tasting room at 315 State Street in St. Joseph, and some commemorative merchandise as well.

The tasting room in Bridgman, which was also home to the Beachside Bakery for several years before Thornburg & Company opened a couple of months before the ladies opened up shop in downtown St. Joe with their first tasting room, will have longer seasonal hours and winter hours of roughly noon to 6pm. Plans are to also be open at other times by appointment, for special events, festivals, and in accordance with Bridgman's Downtown Business Association.

As a wine tasting room, the obvious target audience and primary consumer for Lazy Ballerina in Bridgman will be those 21 and older, however, they will offer a family appropriate atmosphere and provide non-alcoholic beverages for sale and consumption as well.

Melanie and Lauren are cousins in addition to their business partnership, and both are lifelong residents of Michigan's Great Southwest and wine lovers in their own right. Melanie has a Bachelor's Degree in Business & Marketing and has worked as a Banquet Facility Manager, Realtor, Human Resources rep and Wine Tasting Room Manager.

Lauren's Bachelor's Degree is in Sales & Business Marketing from Western Michigan University with a work background in both H.R. and as a Wine Tasting Room Manager.

The two know their industry well, pointing out that during the recession of 2009, the wine industry was one of the few industries to see growth which continues to this very day. They regularly note that SW Michigan is often referred to as the Napa Valley of the Midwest, and local grape growers and wine makers are very well organized, cooperative, and supportive of one another. Competition increases the quality and uniqueness of each winery in the region, and the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail is a destination attraction for people from across the country. 

As the number of wineries and tasting rooms grows, so does the number of tourists who visit the wineries and they in turn visit other businesses, eat at restaurants, stay in local hotels and motels, and boost the overall economy nicely. 

Stay tuned for updates as spring approaches with tasting room number two for Lazy Ballerina Winery. 
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