A vibrant downtown can hinge on business owners taking risks, risking both capital and the passion with which they’ve approached an enterprise. Fifty-year-old Carson City resident Brian Mayer is one such risktaker.
“Massive,” Mayer said, describing the effort behind his new business. “Last year at about this time, I formed our LLC, Mayer Family Wines LLC, and we committed to leasing this space. And that was it. You go into it thinking you have an idea how it’s going to go, the money you need, the resources… You have no idea. Especially as a first-time business owner, you just don’t know.”
On May 25, at 5 p.m., a grand opening will be held at 408 N. Carson St., for Mayer Family Wines. The store will offer fines wines, whiskeys, cheeses, select meats as well as wine tastings. A full-scale wine bar is in the works for the future.
On May 12, Mayer talked to the Appeal as workers from Empire Construction put finishing touches on the store’s interior. Mayer built some of the wine racks himself. The 2,800-square-foot space is the endpoint of a journey that began years ago in California.
Business owner Brian Mayer inside Mayer Family Wines on May 12. A grand opening is slated for 5 p.m. May 25. (Scott Neuffer photo)
“Wine and food, to me, have always been a passion,” Mayer said. “This was always kind of a distant dream of mine to do something like this. You’re just never sure when that’s going to happen or how life is going to shake out for you.”
Raised in Wisconsin, Mayer found himself at Lake Tahoe in the 1990s. It was later working at the Firehouse Restaurant in Sacramento that he became a sommelier. He mentioned his mentor.
“The general manager, Mario Ortiz, was pretty much my wine mentor,” he said. “He really is one of those people that has that charisma and ability to sort of bring you into his world. And his world kind of became my world. And food and wine from that point, for me, they were just everything.
“I think about moments in your life. And it’s not necessarily those material things that you buy or you accumulate over time, but it’s those moments. The best moments of my life, I remember, are when we had a certain dinner, or we shared a certain bottle. So, I think about that part of my life, and that’s really what drew me into this industry.”
Mayer can talk about wine and food with a sensibility that is at once refined and playful.
“It’s hard to describe how many different ways you can pair food with wine, right?” he said. “Especially with cheeses. There are just so many different ways to produce cheeses with different flavor profiles. And then you can pick a wine: red, white, bubbly. There are so many ways to explore those profiles and make it interesting. You can make a new one every time you try. There isn’t a template. You can do whatever you want.”
Mayer can talk merlot from France, Riesling from Germany. Pinot noir is his favorite variety, however.
“When they’re really well-made, they’re the most complex wines,” he said. “They can really bring your palate alive. And you can eat a diverse amount of foods with pinot. And drink them alone, for that matter.”
Passion is one element of a business. But Mayer also found himself willing to commit dollars to his passion — more than $100,000 to renovate the building that once housed part of the Horseshoe Club.
“That’s our livelihood,” he said. “We have no private investment. We have no partners. It’s just my wife and I, so it truly is a family business. We worked hard to keep it that way… We really wanted to keep this idea our own. We wanted this to be a family business.”
Mayer hopes the commitment behind the opening pays off. He and his wife Paula, who works with Carson Tahoe Health, moved back to Carson City for the supportive community.
“I think it important for a town like this to really support your small businesses,” he said. “I think small business — especially for Carson City — is the heartbeat of this town.”
Regular business hours for Mayer Family Wines are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For information, call (775) 301-6369 or email Mayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.