Southshore Uncorked: Urban Winery
APOLLO BEACH, FLORIDA: It’s interesting how some people fall into a business they may have never considered. Kathy and Steve Lieberman are no exception.
These successful real estate agents found hand-crafted wine making and then turned it into a business when they opened Southshore Uncorked, an urban winery in Apollo Beach, in February of 2014.
From Real Estate to Wine Making
Kathy and Steve moved to Florida from Des Moines, Iowa 31 years ago and have spent most of those years working in real estate.
“We started making wine at a home brew store for our clients,” Kathy says. “Wine with a custom label is a great client gift.”
Eventually, she and Steve got their friends into wine-making, too. They would spend afternoons together making wine and then return a few weeks later to bottle it.
Once Kathy discovered she enjoyed making wine for clients, she also envisioned ways to improve the process.
“The store where we made wine did not have the equipment to shrink-wrap the bottle top to give it a professional look and when it came to labels anything I made looked home-made or amateurish. I wanted my client gift to look professional,” Kathy says.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Or, in this case, the mother of an urban winery. Southshore Uncorked came to life in February 2014.
Once Steve and Kathy got hooked on wine making and figured out ways to improve the process the idea to open their own shop took shape.
They jumped in feet first. And, as expert realtors, they worked by the location, location, location rule, landing their current retail space near the end of Apollo Beach Blvd.
Retail Is Not For the Faint at Heart: Get Professional Help
While both Steve and Kathy had some retail experience there wasn’t much that could have prepared them for opening a wine store, which eventually became a federally permitted and bonded winery.
“Retail is not for the faint at heart,” Steve says.
Just finding a location that would allow them to apply for a liquor license proved to be challenging. “There are so many rules,” Kathy says. “For example there can only be so many establishments with a liquor license within a certain area. You can’t be too close to a school or church or playground.” The list is extensive.
Realizing they were entering a complex process Kathy and Steve hired a permitting and zoning expert to help them navigate the liquor license application process as well as the planning and zoning procedures for their location.“I’d recommend to everyone to get a business attorney, too” Kathy says.
“They can help you research and understand everything that will be needed to open the business. They’ll save you a lot of time and money,” Kathy adds.
The list of ‘must-do’s’ is long for an establishment licensed to make and sell alcohol. Wine labels have to be created with federal guidelines in mind. Every bottle of wine has to be counted and accounted for when dealing with alcohol taxes. The list goes on.
Kathy and Steve also relied on the Small Business Administration workshops and mentors. “They can help you determine if you should even open a business or not,” Steve says.
Winery and Event Room
Today, Southshore Uncorked is a federally permitted and bonded winery where you can make and buy wine. They’ve also expanded the shop to include a tasting room and event space.
“We didn’t anticipate growing so fast,” Kathy explains, “but within 6 months of opening we knew we needed more space. When the adjoining shop opened up, we grabbed it.”
Kathy and Steve can serve outside the store, too, which gives them more space when hosting larger events holding up to 35-45 people.
Southshore Uncorked is a destination. “We’re a bit off the beaten path,” Steve says, “But people like coming here. It’s something special to do.”
Visitors can make wine with the guidance of the Southshore Uncorked staff. They’ll provide you everything necessary to create a custom and professionally finished bottle of wine and customers can share their own label design, or Southshore Uncorked will make one for you.
Or, if you just want to taste and buy wine you can do that, too.
The process of making wine is not overly complicated, but it can be a bit physical.
In a nutshell – you start with a ‘juice kit’ for a specific type of wine such as Pinot Noir, Shiraz, or Chardonnay. Then you add yeast to the juice and put it into an air-locked container. The wine starts fermenting within 24 hours.
This initial process takes about 15 minutes and customers can do this part only, if they wish, and return to bottle and label the wine in a few weeks (45 – 60 minutes process including labeling). Or, they can let the store’s staff handle the rest of the process including bottling. How much the customer wants to do is up to them.
Kathy, Steve and the Southshore Uncorked staff monitor all the wines daily. Once the wine has fermented for 10 days it’s transferred to a carboy (fermenting container) for a second fermentation process.
Last, the wine is de-gassed, which takes about 30 minutes (the slightly physical part of the process) and bottled. Voila! Your very own hand-crafted wine.
Southshore Uncorked currently makes and sells 90 varieties of wines and they are working on a sparkling wine product, which is still to be perfected. They have something for everyone’s tastes from fruit wines to Shiraz.
Tastings, Classes, Open Mic Nights, Shopping and Clubs
Many customers come to make wine and many come simply to enjoy wine. Southshore Uncorked offers a bit of something for every adult.
Southshore Uncorked hosts paint and sip art classes and Happier Hours, which include a massage and wine. They’ll begin holding open-mic nights starting May 19 – “Be a Star at Southshore Uncorked.” Each entertainer will sign up for a 30-minute gig and they’ll have four entertainers per night.
“We’ve already got some great entertainers lined up,” says Kathy.
Additionally, Southshore Uncorked has three different wine clubs (will likely add more in the future) and they organize custom events like Death by Chocolate and Wine limousine rides and sunset cruises.
Lastly, Southshore Uncorked sells fun wine accessories to go with the wine and events. You’ll find everything from art to t-shirts to wine charms and hand-painted wine glasses.
Check out their Facebook page to see all of their offerings. Definitely call to make a reservation or to chat with them about creating a custom event.
Kathy and Steve run Southshore Uncorked, alongside their real estate business, with the help of Store Manager Trish Robertson, Wine Maker Amy Gaubert, Marketing Director Joanne Swinsick, Graphic Designer Lora Decker and part-time party and event supporter Lisa Dunn.
NOTE: They are also looking to hire one more part-time person to help make wine (contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested. (Must be able to lift 50 pound buckets).
“We Didn’t Expect to Have This Much Fun”
“My favorite thing about the store?” Steve asks. “All of the people we get to meet every day. It’s a lot of work, but it’s like a continuous party. We get to see people enjoying themselves all of the time.”
Rain or shine we make wine.
1432 Apollo Beach Blvd.
Apollo Beach, FL 33572