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These articles by Jamie Saxon were prepared for the August 11, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Once upon a time, a young woman named Nancy Seifert struck up a conversation with her co-worker, Tom Nye, at Voxware on Franklin Corner Road in Lawrenceville. Oh, where do you live, blah, blah, went the conversation. Avalon Run, says Tom, where do you live? Avalon Run, says Nancy. Turns out the two are next door neighbors – who start dating, and yes, end up marrying.
"We took a trip to Napa that kicked off our relationship," says Nancy Nye, now VP of finance at Sensors Unlimited at 3490 Route 1. That trip to Napa, and a more recent tour of Long Island vineyards, planted the seed of an entrepreneurial idea for the couple that has come to fruition this year – the Grape Escape, a winemaking school.
"The idea of building something from nothing is very appealing to us," says Nye, who graduated in 1991 from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor of business administration. Nancy, who grew up in Wisconsin, is the daughter of a welder with his own machine shop and a teacher. Tom, who left college to get into the computer field and is now the director of IT for ITXC at 750 College Road East, grew up in southern California. His father formerly worked for Moody’s and runs his own financial analysis business and his mother is an artist.
Nancy says that a wine-making school made sense because it combines their personal interests – wine, socializing, and entertaining, with their business talents – computers, finance, and marketing. Tom, for example, designed the website and brochure as well as a database to track clients and virtually every aspect of the winemaking process. The Grape Escape will certainly benefit from Nancy’s financial expertise, but the venture also lets her tap into her left brain, something she had neglected after starting up a gift basket business some years back, which she had to put on the back burner. "For me, the creative side is really important," she says.
Next month the Grape Escape kicks off its first four-session winemaking experience. Using grapes from the Lodi wine country of California, participants will be able to create their own merlot, syrah, zinfandel, chardonnay, and more – choosing from 15 types of wines and blends. Tom, who has been studying on weekends with master winemaker Lou Sodano in Tinton Falls, will lead the evening and weekend sessions, which are designed to be social, complete with hors d’oeuvres. The school, with 4,800 square feet, is on Stults Road in Dayton, close to Exit 8A.
Session 1, in September, includes destemming the grapes and crushing them to start the primary fermentation. (No, you won’t get to stomp on the grapes, Lucy-style – that’s now done with a hand-cranked machine.) At Session 2, about a month later, you use a wine press to extract the juices from the "must" and fill oak barrels with your emerging wine. In the new year, at Session 3, you will learn how to rack your wine and remove lees (sediment) from the barrel, which will then be "topped off." At Session 4, in early summer, you will bottle your wine and affix customized labels – and of course, taste the fruits of your labor.
The price for all this fun? It averages $8 to $9 a bottle, says Nancy. For $2,100, you can tap a whole barrel of red ($1,900 for white), which yields approximately 240 bottles. Dying to crush your own vintage but don’t have that kind of money? You can sign up for 1/8 barrel ($295 for red; $275 for white), which yields 30 bottles, or you can sign up to make a quarter, half, or three-quarters barrel. To make the whole she-bang even more affordable (and more social!), Nancy suggests going in on a barrel or part barrel with two to three friends, family members, or couples. She and Tom are also tapping the corporate world, marketing the winemaking school to companies as a team-building venue and for corporate gifts of private label wine and to brides, family/class reunions, and so on.
Oh, and you don’t have to worry about any teenage trust fund kids spoiling your wine-making party – you have to be 21 or over to participate.
There’s always a good find there. Go with an open mind and come away with something you can’t live without," says Joyce Carroll, founder and owner of Joyce’s Early Lighting in Lawrenceville, one of dozens of exhibitors showcasing everything from perfume bottles to Depression glassware to English porcelain at the third annual Mercer County Antique Show at the Sovereign Bank Arena, this Saturday, August 14.
The event, according to Brenda Ricci, marketing coordinator of the Mercer County Improvement Authority, was launched in 2002 and designed to attract people to the Arena district area. Last year’s show drew close to 60 exhibitors catering to virtually every taste in antiques – kitchenware, linens and textiles, furniture, silver, china, toys, hunting and fishing gear, estate jewelry, collectibles, paper and old magazines – and every era from the Civil War through the 1960s. The show also features an appraisal service from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for a $5 fee per item.
Carroll of Joyce’s Early Lighting (609-882-6345, www.joycesearlylighting.com) attributes her business to being literally hit on the head. "My husband and I were in a barn in New Jersey, cleaning it out, and an oil lamp fell and hit me on the head. Needless to say, I kept that one, it was one of my first pieces." She now specializes in antique oil lamps, which became popular in this country in the 1870s.
Located at 1161 Lawrence Road, the shop carries an estimated 300 to 400 pieces. Carroll started the business about five years ago with her husband, Brian, who formerly sold athletic equipment to dealers and, says Carroll, "lost half his stomach to the corporate world."
Having exhibited at the Mercer County Antiques Show every year since its inception, Carroll recommends the show for everyone. "You don’t have to be an ‘antiques person’ to go. Even people who are not into antiques can go and find a decorating piece – a dresser or table that becomes a focal point for a room, a piece that lets them mix new and old."
"I grew up with antiques," says exhibitor Irene Christine of Hamilton and owner of Blue Cupboard Antiques (609-610-2798). "As kids, my sister and I would go to the Golden Nugget every Sunday," referring to the indoor/outdoor flea market in Lambertville where Christine now has her own shop, which specializes in vintage kitchen collectibles and linens.
"I had picked up an old cupboard and painted it blue," says Christine, who works as an office manager at a law firm in Ewing during the week. She had planned to put the cupboard in her home, until her sister suggested she put it in her shop. The name Blue Cupboard was born.
Her favorite find? "Quite a few years ago, I was at an estate sale, going through a lot of boxes in a dark attic, so dark that I was carrying stuff to the window to see it. I found a Roycroft desk set of hammered copper – the pen holder, paper blotter corners, and several other pieces. I paid like a dollar for it." Later she sold the set, which dates from the early 20th century Arts and Crafts movement, for $200. "I know now it would be more valuable," says Christine, acknowledging that it takes a trained eye to spot valuable collectibles. "My sister said, ‘What’s that ugly stuff?’"
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