This mamapreneur feature is long overdue. I’ve known Hadley for over 3 years now. I photographed her newborn son, Jason, when he was just a couple of weeks old in early 2009. Since then we have stayed in touch via Facebook and I have followed her journey through motherhood and entrepreneurship all the while. She is funny, like side splittingly funny, with her status updates that are raw and truthful about motherhood. I have told her time and time again that she should really write a blog about motherhood with her humorous point of view. Right, just add that on to the other million things she does, right?? Well, long story short I was supposed to do this in early 2012. I reserve the early winter months, January through March, for my mamapreneurs because it’s a slower time and I can dedicate the time needed to do these shoots, edits, and posts without the heavy burden of my workload during my busy spring, summer and fall months. Well, with a couple of cancellations and dates that didn’t work out we finally met up yesterday to do our session. Timing turned out to be just perfect as she and her husband TJ are opening yet another store lanyards for trade shows front and it’s grand opening is tomorrow, September 28th! It was fun to spend a few hours with her and her boys and to see their stunning new space. Without further ado here is her story:
URBAN GRAPE, South End, Boston
Business Name: The Urban Grape
How did you come up with that name: I pride myself on having a great marketing mind, but my husband TJ actually came up with the name for the store. Truthfully, I thought it was terrible. But he was insistent, so we went with it. Of course, we get at least one comment a day about how ingenious the name is. And don’t think for a second he’s let me live that down.
Do you have a store front/website: We have two storefronts! Our original store is at 7 Boylston Street in Chestnut Hill, and our new store is just opening at 303 Columbus Avenue in the South End of Boston. www.theurbangrape.com twitter:@urbangrape, facebook:facebook.com/theurbangrape
How long have you been in business?: We opened our first store on June 12, 2010. Our second store is opening any moment!
Please explain a little bit about your business and how you developed the concept behind it: The Urban Grape is a customer-service oriented, concierge-style liquor store with a focus on wine. TJ came from the restaurant world, so he wanted to bring that kind of hospitality-driven customer experience to wine retail, which he thought was lacking in Massachusetts. My job is to expand that experience for the customers by focusing on social media, marketing, in-store and in-home events, and public relations. You don’t just get great service in our store, The Urban Grape communicates with its customers all day long about the things that matter to them – wine, obviously, but also food, fun experiences in Boston, etc. We are truly full service.
What makes your business so unique? We’re unique for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we are a husband and wife team. I sell The Urban Grape itself, and TJ sells what is inside of it. What makes us truly unique, however, is that we are the only retail store to utilize “progressive shelving,” a term that we are in the process of trademarking. That means that instead of setting up our store by varietal or region (i.e. Chardonnay or Italy), we set it up by the body of the wine – light, medium and full-bodied. It’s a much more consumer-friendly way to sell wine with an emphasis on pairing wine with food.
What is the hardest part or have been some of your struggles starting your own business? We started The Urban Grape at a very unsure time in our economy and we poured our entire life savings into the first physical storefront and inventory. It was a huge risk and very stressful. We knew when we won a Best of Boston from Boston Magazine a year after opening that it was worth it, but there were a lot of sleepless nights in that first year. Now, with the second store, we’re learning how to juggle two different retail spaces with different needs. Also, owning a business with your spouse can be really challenging. Our partnership works really well, but it’s almost impossible to leave business at the door. Pillow talk has a decidedly Urban Grape feel these days!
How many children do you have. What are their ages? And ages when you started your business? We have two sons, Noah and Jason who are 6 and 3.5. They were 1 and 3 when we opened the store. Honestly, there is a big part of me that questions our sanity that we started UG when they were so little! It’s been a big adjustment for them, but they are totally invested and love the stores. They definitely think of them as their wine stores, and Noah has been known to sell Pinot Noir on the playground!
What are some of the creative ways you have found to juggle being a woman, a mother, a business owner, and a wife? I read a great quote from a female White House correspondent that said, essentially, to say mothers are “juggling” makes it sound like we’re not succeeding, to say we are “balancing” makes it seem like we have it all figured out, and neither is correct. I totally agree with her. I have days where I think I am a freaking Super Woman – healthy breakfast on the table, balanced lunches packed, school forms filled out, work accomplished, dazzling repartee with our customers, homemade meal on the table at 6 on the dot, children spotless before bed, and husband made to feel adored between the hours of 7:30 and 11. And then there are days where I feel like a stark-raving mad lunatic who forgot a change of clothes for her potty-training child and ate lunch in the shower. Seriously, who eats lunch in the shower? Well, I do on a regular basis. My only secret is I just try my best, and I forgive myself for a lot of things. At the end of the day my kids are happy and my husband loves me. That’s what matters.
Who is your biggest inspiration? I get really inspired by this great sisterhood of mothers. We run households and businesses and still have enough in the tank to act as the emotional touchstones for our families. On top of all of that, we provide support to our girlfriends in their toughest moments because we know we could be there tomorrow. And entrepreneurial mothers really get me misty-eyed because we handle so much risk and un-certainty. Mothers are the trees that don’t break in the hurricane, and that’s no small feat.
Now for some fun and easy questions….
Favorite meal? I could never pick just one. I love food – reading about it, shopping for it, cooking it, eating it, going out to dinner – everything! I guess if I had to pick one meal I couldn’t live without it would be my mother’s spaghetti sauce. It means even more to me now because I make it for my kids and they love it just as much. When I get that to the table I feel like I’m connecting to my family on a lot of levels. Plus, it tastes great with Italian wine, which is our favorite!
Favorite Dessert? I have a serious sweet tooth, so I’ll pretty much eat any dessert. But the one thing I can never pass up is a brownie sundae with all the fixings. Even thinking about it gives me the shakes.
Favorite restaurant (can be anywhere)? In Boston I love Island Creek Oyster Bar, Toro, Ten Tables, Russell House Tavern and The Gallows. But the best meal I’ve had in the past year was at Milos in Las Vegas – amazingly fresh Greek food that banished the last remnants of a girl’s weekend hangover!
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory? Boots, leggings, and a big comfy sweater all add up to my winter time uniform. I feel like it’s every mom’s dirty little secret that we get to leave the house looking pulled together but still feeling like we are in our pajamas. And it more than makes up for all those times we have to toddle around in four inch heels.
Favorite vacation spot? Italia. Put me in Tuscany on a sunny day at a cafe with some vino, bread and pecorino and I am in heaven. I dream of spending a year in Italy with TJ and the kids some day. I’d have a garden and stuff zucchini flowers for antipasto and make pasta from scratch. I’d start drinking every day at 4 and no one would care. Bliss.
Favorite childhood memory? I grew up on a big farm in New Jersey, so all my favorite memories are of being with our animals, riding my horse, and working in the garden with my mom. It was a really lovely way to grow up.
What book is on your nightstand? My Nook sits unused on my nightstand month after month. However, I did just manage to read The Paris Wife about Elizabeth Hadley Hemingway, my namesake, and loved it. These days my reading doesn’t get much more high-brow than US Weekly. You know you’re over-tired when even People Magazine’s articles are too long.
When you have free time (ha!) what would your ideal day entail? TJ and I don’t have time for pointless days anymore and I really miss that. Some of my best memories are of doing things like laying on the couch with him all day eating take-out and watching the Rambo movies back-to-back. Or playing hooky on snowy days and ending up in an Irish pub drinking Guinness and eating beef stew. Or crashing for a nap after brunch with Bloody Marys. Food and booze – I think now you all know what makes me tick!
On any given day, what makes you smile? It’s so cliche, but my kids. They are in a great phase right now where they have just discovered how much they enjoy each other. No one makes our little guy laugh like his older brother. He belly laughs so hard until he is completely out of breath and exhausted. Do I like that it is almost always a string of potty words that has started the laughter? No. But I love seeing how much they love each other and knowing that they will be best friends for their whole lives.