MOUNT VERNON — Mother and daughter team Brenda Broulik and Anna Wilson started growing grapes together 10 years ago and making their own wine five years ago at their Glyn Mawr Winery. Now, they’re welcoming customers to taste that wine in their own shop front in downtown Mount Vernon, the final stage of a decadelong journey that began when they planted the first grape vines on their family farm near Olin.
“I wanted a change at age 50. I decided I needed to do something different,” Broulik said.
She grew up on a farm and wanted to return to those roots after years of running heavy equipment with her husband in the construction industry. Wilson was selling real estate in Cedar Rapids at the time and decided to join her mother’s new venture.
“I wanted to bring my kids into being outdoors, and for them to know what hard work is,” she said.
They took viticulture classes and learned the craft of growing wine grapes before taking the next step of opening their own winery five years ago. Theirs is a fairly small operation, with just the two of them on staff and a marketing strategy that has largely relied on holding wine tasting events throughout the year. They sell their wine in 24 locations, preferring small specialty shops over larger retailers.
“We needed to learn each phase. But this was always the plan,” Wilson said of the taproom.
Their tasting room, The Local, opened at the end of January in a building that has been in Broulik’s husband’s family since the early 1980s and had been rented out to various businesses.
The main level, which they call the Local Mercantile, features a shop they are managing in cooperation with two other local entrepreneurs, Whoa Nelli, which makes cleaning and skin care products, and Farmhouse Market, which features antiques and upcycled home goods. A bar in the back offers visitors a place to sip Glyn Mawr wine, craft beer or Wild Culture Kombucha. They also serve snacks, all from local producers. Bites include Dan & Debbie’s Creamery ice cream and cheese, Oasis hummus and pita chips, Local Crumb bread with Pickle Creek Herbs oil and vinegar, Sugar Bottom Bakery cookies and salads.
Wilson said they’d built relationships with other local producers over the years, through wine tastings at events and farmers markets, and they wanted to keep those relationships central.
“We wanted to bring a little bit of that with us,” she said. “We want this to be an extension of who we are.”
The basement level, which still is under construction, will be a full tasting room and bar. Both the basement and main levels can be rented out for events.
Broulik, with construction experience running heavy equipment, is doing the bulk of the renovation work. That has included building the upstairs and downstairs bars, lowering the basement floor to give the room more height and installing heating throughout the concrete basement floor. Much of the new touches pay tribute to the old, such as rescued barn wood used throughout the building.
They also uncovered the original brick walls and in the process found something special. On one wall, a mural painted in the 1970s depicts a rural farm sale. Broulik said she remembers it being painted when the space was Mount Vernon General, a bar and grill, but it has been covered by Sheetrock since the early 1980s.
Broulik and Wilson are looking for one more business the sell their goods in the Local Mercantile. The vendors they work with pay rent on the space where they vend and work one day a week in the shop but then take home all sales of their products. They can also host events in the space.
Glyn Mawr Winery raises six grapes and produces 10 wine varieties, ranging from sweet to dry. Broulik said she has enjoyed learning the craft, a process that never stops.
“Wine is challenging. It’s never boring; you learn something every time you turn around, and it’s creative,” she said. “If you can create, from vine to bottle, a wine that just one person can enjoy, you’ve created your own success.”
l Comments: (319) 398-8339; firstname.lastname@example.org
If You Go
What: Glyn Mawr Winery — The Local
Where: 103 First St. NW, Mount Vernon
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Hours subject to change.
Details: (319) 895-8790, facebook.com/thelocalmercantilegm