The Bottle Room celebrates 10 years in business
By Heather Graves
SUAMICO – For The Bottle Room owners Justin and Christine Rutchik, life looks much different now than it did on opening day a decade ago.
For one, the wine-loving duo now have two children – ages six and seven.
The area’s first wine-focused establishment also implemented an ever-changing list of wines and craft beers and pivoted as it weathered a global pandemic.
But what has remained a constant over the last 10 years, Christine Rutchik said, is The Bottle Room’s attention to detail.
“Using good glassware for our wines that we serve,” she said. “Making sure that our soaps in our bathrooms and our candles at our tables are all unscented so that way, so there’s no ambient scents that are interfering with the aromas of your wine or your craft beer or your cocktails. Temp-controlling our wines, so they’re served at the correct temperatures. Making sure staff is not overly perfumed or using heavy detergents. I mean, those items, people may not realize that it’s affecting their experience, but it’s one of the things that we’ve always felt has made the difference in The Bottle Room and in our guests’ experience.”
How it started
Not originally from Northeast Wisconsin – Justin from Milwaukee and Christine from Illinois – the couple, whose love story began on Match.com, felt the Green Bay area market, at the time 10 years ago, didn’t have anything like what The Bottle Room offers.
“We met on Match.com and Justin proposed six months after we met,” Christine said. “And then we got married three months later and we signed our lease on The Bottle Room like the month after we got married. So it’s been a whirlwind since we met.”
Christine said both her and Justin have always had a passion for wine and were both part of different wine clubs when they met.
“I have a service industry background,” she said. “I’ve been bartending since I was 18.”
As far as “wine credentials,” Christine said Justin has his WSET (wine, spirits, education and trust) certification out of London.
“He also has his certified specialist of wine degree as well,” Christine said.
When the duo first thought about opening a wine bar, Christine said they were originally looking at De Pere, but a late-minute fall-through on a lease led them to the Lineville location in Suamico.
“We did a little bit more research,” she said. “We love the look of the mall, and the feel of the community. So, we decided to open in Suamico, and it’s been very well received, and we’re very happy with the location.”
The story behind the name
Christine said Vino Terroir – the essence of what makes up wine and grapes, everything from the weather to the geographical elements that come into play – was originally meant to be the restaurant/bar’s name.
“But we felt a lot of people won’t know how to pronounce it,” she said. “And in addition to that, we really wanted people to know that we didn’t just serve wine. The bottle room is actually the name of where they keep wine and bottles in a castle, so we kind of got the name from that. And knowing that we were going into it, also focusing on craft beer and cocktails, we felt that that was a better name.”
Christine said The Bottle Room has definitely evolved over the years from a cocktail and drink standpoint.
The Bottle Room has more than 75 craft beer and wine by the glass selections on its menu,” she said.
“Our cocktail program has immensely emerged since we’ve opened. We have a fantastic line of bourbons and scotches and craft cocktails. We have a bar manager that does great things back there. We have a kitchen manager that was hired a few years ago to evolve our food menu. So we have a lot of small plates, sandwiches and green bowls and salads and wraps and things of that nature, flatbreads and pizzas. So more of a shared-plate feeling though in terms of the heavy appetizers for a group to enjoy.”
Christine said The Bottle Room’s atmosphere sets them apart.
“When people arrive inside they really have a feeling of being transformed into an elegant space,” she said. “Our feeling when we opened The Bottle Room was that people are paying to go drink somewhere other than their home, which is their most comfortable place to be, so it had to be relaxing and comfortable and elegant in a place they really had visual interest in wanting to be in.”
Christine said they have zero TVs in the facility’s main bar area, because “we really want people to get back to the lost art of conversation.”
“Our retail stock spans the length of one of the walls in our entire facility, and I always say it’s the most expensive decoration,” she said. “It’s pretty to look at and people love it. And obviously you can also purchase bottles to-go, but it really creates an elegance in the facility and visual interests that I think people really jive with.”
Christine said the ride over the past 10 years has been unforgettable.
“The people that we’ve met, and the knowledge that we’ve gained, for sure the friendships we’ve made, between employees and customers and just the experiences that we’ve been able to enjoy, the wines we’ve been able to try, would never have been possible without owning The Bottle Room,” she said.
Christine said the biggest challenge, like many other establishments, was the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID was was definitely a big hit and probably the biggest obstacle since we’ve opened,” she said. “But, you know, one of the things that we loved about The Bottle Room ballroom and opening it was that challenge of opening it, and COVID kind of brought on that challenge again of how are we going to survive? How are we going to make this work?”
Christine said it took some out-of-the-box thinking and pivoting from how they normally did things to survive and keep their staff.
“We did a lot of virtual online wine tastings,” she said. “We paired with EatStreet just prior to COVID, so we were doing a lot of delivery. We were offering delivery from our staff as well. We were able to keep four of our management team on salary full-time throughout COVID, and that was just a blessing… We came out on the other side and we had 100% of our staff return.”
What does the future hold?
Christine said the possibility of opening another location is a conversation that she has with her husband almost daily.
“We’ve always loved the idea of opening another location,” she said. “We have you know domain names that are already secured for potential future or expansion. We set up The Bottle Room to expand it, so that option is there. We just have small kids at home currently and pulling our attention away from them in order to get another business off the ground at this exact moment is a tough decision to make.”
In addition to owning The Bottle Room, Justin and Christine also both have full-time jobs – Justin a captain with the Oshkosh Fire Department and Christine the head of the billboard division for Jones Sign.