IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT WINE AT MADISON AVENUE WINE SHOP
One obvious sign that a merchant is growing and healthy: The number of words crammed into the business' (physical) sign.
Such is the case with DeDe McCartney, who marked the 10th anniversary last year of what, in shorthand, goes by "Madison Avenue Wine Shop" in Sturgeon Bay's west side waterfront business district. But the full name is actually "Madison Avenue Wine Shop & Market" and, oh yes, don't forget the "Door County Olive Oil" part of its wide-ranging wares.
The string of syllables reflects McCartney's original goal of opening a diverse boutique; the irresistible enticement of wine simply serving as the pull to draw in customers and, ideally, sell other goods, she said.
Consequently, the inventory ranges well beyond Zinfandels and Chardonnays. The wines come from around the world but also include brands from all but one of Door County's wineries.
"We were so busy with the (downtown) sidewalk sale, and that same day two semi-loads arrived," McCartney said. "I still haven't caught up with it."
Meanwhile, an order arrived from a real estate agent for a gift basket to mark a closing on a house with wine, cheese and crackers. McCartney said the market prepares about 200 such baskets at Christmastime each year.
When a young helper arrived for work around 10 a.m., McCartney immediately sent her to the storeroom to tend to the unfi nished stocking. It allowed the owner to return to the kitchen and concentrate on cooking fresh lunch and snack items for the in-house gourmet deli.
“At first, it was intimidating because you had all these (connoisseurs) who knew what they were talking about. It doesn't scare me anymore …”
— DeDe McCartney, Madison Avenue Wine Shop & Market
McCartney acquired more space for her house-made delicacies in June, when she expanded her store into the vacant, former Bay Shore Outfi tters shop just next door to the west. The remodeling and addition nearly doubled the size of her business from 1,500 square feet to 2,800.
"Hopefully, I'll put a (larger) kitchen in the back for more space to do my cooking," she said, adding that the backlogged storeroom is the likely landing spot. "Really, I whip up whatever I feel like doing that day; there's no set menu. Today, it's shrimp cocktail salad."
Looking at the deli cooler shelves, her mood that day also inspired a chicken/shrimp/andouille sausage combo and a turkey, roast beef and cheddar sub.
"The people vacationing like the seafood," McCartney said. "We carry a lot of the shrimp, scallops and lobster for the boaters coming from the (Harbor Club) marina."
Bay Shore Outfi tters, an outdoor sporting goods store, moved a couple blocks into the new Bay Lofts residential/retail development at the west end of the iconic steel bridge. West Side redevelopment like the Bay Lofts is paying off for McCartney, not just in new customers and more sizable quarters but also in freed-up parking after the popular Sonny's Pizzeria relocated to a larger building on the waterfront in March 2015.
"I'm happy for Sonny's, and it's good for me because we have parking on our street now; Sonny's used to take up all of the parking," she said. "I'm not good at stuff like (quantifying the business growth), but it's grown for sure. Wouldn't you be excited about the (redevelopment) if you had a business on this side of the bay?"
In general, the original fl oor space is taken up with the wine-andcuisine, half of the shop's calling card. Nearly 200 beer brands and 1,500 different wine labels – on racks custom-built by husband Mike – populate that half of the shop, along with newly introduced bourbon selections; homemade and packaged foodstuffs to pair with the drinks; and 14 varieties of olive oil, another wrinkle added since the early days.
McCartney educated herself on the Mediterranean dressing and frypan fl avoring the same way she boned up on wines a decade ago, subjects she knew little about at the outset. She can speak confidently now about the health properties of "good fats" and omega acids in the exotic cooking oils.
"At first, it was intimidating because you had all these (connoisseurs) who knew what they were talking about," she said. "It doesn't scare me anymore, and I rely on (advice from) the salesman for the bourbon.
"I've learned a little bit more about the olive oil, and the food was always a no-brainer. I've been cooking since I was 14."
The shop carries the Delizia brand of olive oil, part of the California- based Veronica Foods founded by Italian immigrants nearly a century ago. The company imports from an olive grove in Sicily and processing mill in Tunisia, near the ancient city of Carthage.
Just a partial list of the breathtaking variety of other eats and drinks would include tortellini, fresh lettuce, drink mixers, marinara and other Italian sauces, artisan crackers, garlic, steak seasoning, brand-name meats like Nueske's ham and Salmon's bratwurst, and Washington Island mustard and maple syrup.
The neighboring, newly acquired space – with a half-wall knocked out for an interior entrance – is where discerning customers can fi nd candlesticks, cutting boards, ceramic utensils, candles in a jar, wine glasses, body lotions, vintage cooking scales, classic cookbooks and other giftshop fare. The food vs. dry goods division is not absolute, as canned mushrooms, olives and beets also fi nd a home in the new space.
The wine-oriented half of the shop has more of the upscale feel. The new area is more throwback with a solid, olden oak merchandise table; a sliding, cedar barn door leading to the future kitchen; woodplate signs with kitschy slogans like "If it ain't fried, it ain't food"; and large, woodblock prints of old black-and-white photos showing the former Goettelman-Warner wholesale supply business and a muledrawn mail train (identity unknown).
The whole look, in a good way, seems to have come straight from Charles Ingalls' favorite general store. And both halves highlight the murals of Mike McCartney, a nationally known caricaturist specializing in canine art.
It's the only part of this thriving store that has gone to the dogs.