Wine on Main Street
When Mountain Home magazine moved out of their digs on Main Street in Wellsboro this past July, a realtor contacted Karon Swendrowski, owner of Oregon Hill Winery, and told her the perfect space had become available. Karon had been wanting to open up a retail presence in Wellsboro for some time, but finding the right space had proved to be an elusive hunt.
She had, in fact, put it on a back burner and opened up a space in McElhattan in June. It was the first expansion for Oregon Hill Winery since her late husband, Eric, started it in Morris in 1983 at age seventeen. “He was the youngest person to ever get a permit to make wine in this country, and I think that record still holds,” Karon says. When Eric died in 2017, Karon was left alone at the winery.
“Eric was the winemaker, bottler, bookkeeper, and managed the business end. I helped with the bottling, but my main job was raising our two daughters,” Karon says. In what she describes as the most challenging two years of her life, Karon was faced with either selling everything and walking away from the winery and starting fresh, or hiring people who could do all the work Eric had done.
She chose to continue the winery her husband had started over thirty years ago. She hired a winemaker and other staff, persevered, and is now expanding the business. Which brings us back to Wellsboro and the former location of Mountain Home magazine and art gallery.
The winery had a presence at a few of the Wellsboro festivals in 2018 and received a very positive response from the community. Since last Christmas, Karon had been trying to find the right space in the borough.
“I really wanted to open a store in Wellsboro. It had to be Wellsboro, and on Main Street in Wellsboro, not Mansfield or anywhere else. Eric graduated from Wellsboro High School. We were members of the Chamber of Commerce in Wellsboro, and my two daughters attend Wellsboro High School,” Karon continues. “When I got the call from the realtor about the space on Main Street that had just become available, I was leaving on vacation the next day. I hurriedly made plans to go see it before I went out of town and fell in love with the space immediately. But I wasn’t going to sign a lease until I received approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. I took my computer with me on what became a working vacation.”
There were lots of phone calls and e-mails back and forth while she was on vacation. Three days after she returned, Karon had a meeting at the Main Street location with a representative from the PLCB, and that individual subsequently gave approval for Oregon Hill Winery to open at 871⁄2 Main Street. “I got the approval in one week! I was expecting it to take at least a month. I wasn’t prepared,” Karon says. But that didn’t stop her from opening the place just one month after signing the lease, on August 28, just before Labor Day.
“We were able to get a number of furnishings from Fifth Season when they closed their storefront on Main Street and had a going out of business sale. It was really fortunate for us because we wanted to maintain a Victorian theme and we were able to get some great things from Fifth Season to go with that theme,” Karon says.
The space on Main Street that is now Oregon Hill’s wine shop also came with a small art gallery, and getting PLCB approval for selling things beyond the wine products is proving to be not nearly as fast as the initial nod to open the store. “I have approval to sell a few things, as long as a separate cash register is used. But I am not pushing it at this time until we receive official approval for everything,” she says.
In addition to selling Oregon Hill Winery’s award-winning wines at the shop, Karon has plans for many fun, special events throughout the year. “I am going to look at calendars to find days that have been designated something—like Medical Assistants Day, Executive Assistants Day, Restaurant Employees Day, and things like that,” Karon says.
The first such event was October 28, with a special Teacher Night to honor all school personnel who made it through the first nine weeks of the new school year. “Many people attended and everyone seemed to really enjoy it and appreciate it. We had door prizes and definitely plan on doing it again,” Karon says.
Besides buying wine or doing a tasting, you can also sit and enjoy a glass of wine and relax in the cozy atmosphere Karon has created. The store is currently open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“After the holidays the hours will change for the winter—we will be closed Monday through Wednesday, and open from 11 to 6 Thursday through Sunday,” says Karon.
You can contact the Wellsboro store using the same phone number as the original winery in Morris at (570) 353-2711. You can also find out about all of the events happening at all three locations on Facebook.