Whispering Vine, on cusp of 20-year anniversary, expanding to Midtown Reno
RENO, Nev. — One day in the summer of 1997, Curtis Worrall was working inside of the Purple Bean, a quaint coffee shop that he opened on West Seventh Street in Reno, when he was approached by then-University of Nevada, Reno College of Business Dean Mike Reed.
Operating his own coffee shop — as well as working as a bellman at a hotel downtown — Worrall had put a halt to finishing a business degree at UNR. Upon learning this, Reed offered to look up how many more classes Worrall needed to graduate.
It turned out to be just one — an entrepreneurship class.
Not only did that class lead to Worrall’s eventual graduation, it cultivated the conception of his current thriving business, Whispering Vine Wine Co., the oldest wine store in Reno.
“The idea started in that business class,” Worrall said. “I’ve always been interested in wine, and I just thought, we’re so close to Napa and Sonoma, and it’s so easy to go down there and do wine tasting … why not bring something like that to Reno? I thought there was an opportunity there with the wine tasting part.”
With a business degree and business plan in hand, Worrall opened up the first Whispering Vine at Mayberry Drive and South McCarran Boulevard on Oct. 1, 1998.
“Our initial claim to fame was you come and taste the wine before you buy it, and that kind of piqued people’s interests,” Worrall said. “And it’s been uphill all the way.”
In fact, in November 2010, in the midst of the great recession, Worrall opened his second Whispering Vine shop in the South Creek Retail Center at Foothill Road in south Reno.
“We opened Foothill in the worst time economy-wise, and people thought I was crazy,” Worrall said. “But it blossomed.”
Indeed, Worrall said the Foothill Whispering Vine’s first year of sales matched what it took the Mayberry shop to generate in its first 10 years.
“It was kind of crazy,” he added.
Five years later, in June 2015, Worrall opened his third shop near Caughlin Ranch at West Fourth Street, where the old Washoe Steakhouse used to operate. The 8,000-square-foot Whispering Vine has a selection of roughly 3,500 wines and, unlike the other stores, serves food.
POURING INTO MIDTOWN
Now, with the company approaching its 20-year anniversary, Whispering Vine is on the cusp of extending to Reno’s flourishing Midtown District, where it will open its fourth shop this summer.
“I’ve always wanted to have a place down there,” said Worrall, admitting that he’d been waiting to see how things evolved in Midtown. “Everything seems to be cranking along, so I thought it’d be fun to do our concept down there.
“I think there’s opportunity for us down there; it’ll give us a different demographic than what we have right now.”
The Midtown Whispering Vine will occupy a 2,300-square-foot space in the Sticks development, hugging myriad bars and restaurants in the development and close by.
Worrall said the shop, which will have retail wine and a tasting bar, will carry up to 500 different wines, as well as spirits and craft beers from local distilleries and breweries.
In addition, it will give patrons the option of ordering food from neighboring restaurants in the development, Worrall said.
The glass-walled wine shop will also have barrel and cocktail programs. Giving an example of a featured spirit, Worrall said they are getting a gin from Rogue, an Oregon-based craft brewery and distillery, that was aged in one of Whispering Vine’s Pinot Noir barrels.
“It’s got a pinkish hue and the stuff is unbelievable,” he said. “So we’re excited about that.”
Worrall said the Midtown Whispering Vine is tentatively slated to open its doors in mid-July.
“We’ve had a good following for a long time,” Worrall said. “I think a lot of it has to do with being embraced by the community. To still be open after 20 years in this business is pretty strong. It’s a lot of work, but it’s still fun.”
The $625,000 deal included a low-interest SBA 504 loan facilitated by Nevada State Development Corp., the state’s largest SBA 504 loan provider. City National Bank partnered in the financing package.