With all the holiday parties going on this time of year I’m guessing that business was particularly good this weekend at Riverside Wines. Riverside is not your grandfather’s liquor store. With more wines and premium beer selection than any other place in town, great ambiance, and an intimate setting, Robert and Monica Morson have transformed the old Sammy’s Food Mart into a thriving Kent retail experience. If you haven’t visited them lately you’ve got to stroll out back and check out the great deck overlooking the Cuyahoga River and now you can park in their new expanded lot. In recognition of their hard work and business success, Riverside Wines was honored at this year’s Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, receiving the City Development Award for 2007.
I hear a lot about Kent’s best kept secrets, and I’ve often referred to Riverside Wines as one of them, but to be honest at this point the word is officially out — and Riverside Wines is in. It’s even featured on YouTube.
Check out the YouTube Video.
Located at 911 North Mantua the store has become one of Kent’s most remarkable business turnaround – hometown guy (and gal) makes good stories. Robert Morson purchased Sammy’s Food Mart back in August 1996. He took the old convenience store, worked his magic, and began to transform it into his vision of “what could be.” In 2004 he acquired a wine and beer liquor license and six months later he opened a wine and beer bar in 2005.
From the start the store focused on quality selections of wine and beer with something for every palette. He quickly built a reputation for having the most unique beers and wines at very reasonable prices. If you’re looking for that special wine or beer gift, Bob was bound to have it. Throw in nuts, cheese, and music and you’ve got a great date night out.
In addition to shelves and shelves of product, Bob found a way to squeeze in 61 seats for in-store drinks. Hiring a local artist Bob took another step closer to his dream and created his very own Tuscany in the store with a great vineyard feel and a comfortable adult atmosphere.
Building on the store’s growing popularity, in 2006 Bob saw another business chance and true to form, he took it, constructing a first of it’s kind deck and patio overlooking the Cuyahoga River. The deck seats 150 people and with a state of the art outdoor sound system, lighting, fountains, heating and more artwork, Bob’s created something very special in his backyard. He’s been rewarded by loyal customers who can’t wait to get their deck chair.
To accommodate his growing business, Bob purchased a blighted property north of Riverside which he converted into a 32 car parking lot. During this time he’s increased his staff from 3 employees to 14 in 2008. Bob’s managed to offer top shelf products at down to earth prices and a smile.
Bob has talked to me about managing the risk of investing in the property and he has become a great example of how you take a great idea, passion, and preserverance and build it into a great hometown business.
Great job Bob and Monica Morson and congratulations on your 2007 award.