Steffini Bethea often jokes that she went from selling drugs to alcohol.
After being laid off from her job in pharmaceutical sales, Bethea had a number of jobs before deciding her regular Girls Night Out parties could be turned into a career.
Bethea said she always had a love for wine, but she began to read and learn more about them while hosting Girls Night Out parties with friends. Eventually, her husband suggested she dive headfirst into her new hobby and turn it into a job.
Shortly thereafter, The Purple Corkscrew wine shop opened in Emory Village.
The business, which is now located in Avondale Estates, will celebrate its 5th anniversary this weekend.
In its initial location, The Purple Corkscrew was a wine room and lounge. Because of mandates in the Emory Village location, the wine shop was not allowed to sell wine retail in the same space that hosted tastings. They also had to sell food.
Bethea said she loved the area, aside from the fact that she didn’t enjoy selling food and being judged off of anything outside of the wine she was selling, but she quickly learned the pitfalls of existing in a neighborhood that is anchored by a university.
During the summer faculty and students were away from campus, and business was slow.
Since moving to Avondale Estates, business has been more consistent and Bethea only offers cheese to go with wine tastings. She’s also allowed to sell wine retail in the same space.
As she nears the 5th anniversary of opening her business, Bethea said she’s been reflecting on being a minority in her industry. Using her hand to count, she lists the people of color and women she knows who have wine shops throughout metro Atlanta. She said this realization led her to research black winemakers throughout the country.
“One of the things that I realized is that there aren’t a lot of black winemakers out there,” she said.
Her research led her to the work of Andre Mack, a winemaker and sommelier, with a similar story to hers. As a black man, Mack left the corporate world to become a “rockstar winemaker,” speaking often about his start in the industry as a “black sheep.” In an interview with NPR, Mack spoke about how being a minority motivated him and notes that the industry has become more diverse since he first began.
His company, Mouton Noir Wines, is a nod to that beginning. The company’s name means “black sheep” in French.
Mack will visit Atlanta this Saturday to speak at The Purple Corkscrew and sell his wine. With cheeky titles such as “O.P.P.” (Other People’s Pino Noir and Gris), Mack’s collection is sure to turn heads at the local wine shop.
In addition to Mack’s appearance, The Purple Corkscrew anniversary celebration will include live jazz and catered food. Tickets are $20 for noon- 3 p.m. brunch bites and $35 for a day party (3 p.m.-6 p.m.) and meet and greet with Mack (6 p.m.-9 p.m.).
Bethea said she hopes the day-long celebration will help returning customers to celebrate their local wine shop and invite new customers to learn that purchasing wine doesn’t have to be intimidating.
There are certainly opportunities to join groups and host private events at The Purple Corkscrew, but if you walk in just wanting to purchase a bottle of wine for dinner, you’re sure to learn something new and leave home with a bottle that will impress your friends.