FOLLANSBEE — Some people have generations of wine-making or beer-brewing knowledge coursing through their veins; for those who don't, stores like Winemaker's Loft in Follansbee can fill in the knowledge gaps.
Owner Derek Sliday describes the business, located at 830 Main St., as a one-stop shop for beer and wine-making enthusiasts, but he also sells commercial wines and operates a gift shop.
"Not a lot of people know about us, but we do get good word of mouth advertising, people who recommend us to their friends," he said. "We teach people from step one all the way to the finished product. However far they want to get into the process, we're here to help them."
Sliday's grandfather, Charlie Rangos, started the business 14 years ago as a hobby. He opened Winemaker's Loft two days after retiring from one of the local steel mills.
"It just grew and grew and grew," Sliday said. "He started out just two days a week, then it quickly became five. Business just took off."
Before tackling the brewing business Sliday worked in a recording studio, but gave that up because he couldn't get enough hours. Turns out, his career redirection was exactly what he needed.
"It's been a gem," said Sliday, who took over for his grandfather a year ago. "I always thought if you have to go to work every day, do something you love and enjoy doing. This is definitely it for me."
Sliday said he stocks everything his customers need to make wine or beer. If he doesn't have it in stock, he'll get it.
"We have any and every style recipe kit already made up," he said. "We have kits for the lightest to the darkest beer, and everything in between — there's about 30 different styles of beer you can choose from. We also have ingredients so if someone wants to put their own recipe together, they can do that."
Likewise, the store sells concentrate kits, complete with all the ingredients and additives needed to make just about any kind of wine you can think of.
"Follow the directions on the sheet and four to six weeks later you'll have a very good quality wine or beer," he said. "If someone's just starting out, we suggest they stick with the recipe kits. Eventually you can branch off and put your own stuff together, but it's a really easy way to learn the process and what's going on with your brew."
He said he gets his fair share of feedback.
"A lot of people come in and tell me it's better than anything they can buy," he said. "People think I'm kidding when I tell them that, but then they come back and admit it's pretty darn good … and for a fraction of the price."