Maude Wilson has been doing a steady business since opening Downtown Wine & Cheese last week in a space that had been the Wine & Cheese Gallery for 43 years.
The people have spoken, and Maude Wilson’s Downtown Wine & Cheese has opened for business in the homey space formerly occupied by the venerable Wine & Cheese Gallery at 113 N. Main St.
“We opened last Monday without telling anybody,” Wilson said. “It was all word of mouth and it was crazy all week. I am very, very happy.”
Last August, Wilson found herself unemployed when Thomas “Bunky” Mastin and Wade Tyler decided to close the Wine & Cheese Gallery after 43 years, shuttering a downtown institution that dated to the Nixon administration.
Eight months later, Wilson has resurrected the business with a slightly different name but the same quality food and service customers expect.
“I’m glad she’s keeping it going,” said Brian Sparks, who dropped by the store Monday evening with Holly Greer. “This place has been around a long time.”
“We’re excited that Wine & Cheese is still here,” said Greer, who considers Wilson an old friend. “She’s absolutely doing a favor for the community.”
For now, Wilson is focusing her attention on the counter-service lunch menu that includes a daily selection of soups, sandwiches and salads. In particular, customers have been demanding the house dressing, which is a creamy garlic and dill.
“We’re rotating sandwiches and salads daily based on what is fresh and in season,” she said.
Earlier this week, for example, Wilson featured a sandwich that included roasted red peppers and marinated portabella with goat cheese and pesto on ciabatta bread. There was also a roast beef with Rondelle served heated on French bread.
There’s also a quiche of the day as well as a choice of three cheeses.
Wilson said she wants to start offering an array of cheeseboards for dinner as early as next week and stay open until 10 p.m. There will be table service, and customers can order wine either by the glass or bottle. She will also reintroduce Happy Hour five nights a week. Eventually, pizza will return to the menu.
Although Downtown Wine & Cheese has a small indoor dining room and an adjacent tasting room, most customers will want to enjoy their food and wine (or beer) in the courtyard patio nestled behind the old house.
Of course, wine remains a big part of the eatery’s name and business. Wilson will typically offer three reds and three whites by the glass as well as a variety of bottled wines that can be purchased and consumed onsite without a corkage fee.
“We’ll try to feature a variety of grapes, plus everyday accessible wines as well as higher-end wines suitable for gifts,” she said.
Wilson has dubbed one spot in her eatery The Wade Corner because it offers bottled wine recommended by the former owner. Both Tyler, 68, and Mastin, 70, who is now a wine buyer, have supported Wilson in her efforts to reopen the store.
“She’s giving it her all and I wish her well,” Mastin said. “Maude gets things done. Good for her. Go for it!”
The store’s interior still has many of the touches from the old Wine & Cheese Gallery, including walls of corks and wine-crate panels. Still, Wilson discovered that many other things needed to be updated to pass inspection.
“I thought it was turnkey until I started moving things around,” she said with a laugh.
Downtown Wine & Cheese currently opens Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and stays open until 7 p.m. Soon those hours will be extended Tuesday through Saturday until 10.
“I was working for Wade and Bunky when they announced their retirement, so I was unemployed,” Wilson said. “I either had to run around town dropping off job applications or create my own job.”
She took over the business officially in November after a crowd-sourcing campaign fell short of its goal. One individual provided financial help, but Wilson has otherwise taken on the challenge on her own.
”This business was successful for almost 43 years,” Wilson said. “I think the modern changes we’re making—the streamlining—is only going to attract more families and young professionals.
Meanwhile, Downtown Wine & Cheese will soon have a next-door neighbor. Third House Books, an independent bookstore and coffeeshop, is hoping to have a soft opening in early May, according to owner Kiren Valjee.
“Renovations of the space have taken a long time,” Valjee said. “It’s a very old building and we keep discovering new ‘projects.’ But otherwise everything is going smoothly.”
Third House Books will specialize in carrying titles from small independent presses, local writers and undiscovered writers.
Valjee envisions a bookshop with a small inventory that is dynamic and changing, encouraging patrons to visit often for a good spell of time.
“In that way also, the shop will be a destination space, one in which patrons can lounge and read, sip on coffee, and visit with friends and colleagues. We want to be a community-oriented space.”
— Noel Leroux
Downtown Wine & Cheese
113 N. Main St.
Gainesville, FL 32601
Hours: Opens 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday
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