Wine & Words celebrates 15 years in business

Published 12:54 am Monday, April 24, 2017

For 15 years, it’s been a shop unlike any other in Beaufort County, offering a taste of the finer things in life.

Wine & Words … & Gourmet in downtown Washington is the culmination of years of hard work — part wine shop and part bookstore, with gourmet foods folded in the mix.

James McKelvey and Yvonne Sedgwick opened the original Wine & Words in April 2002 in Belhaven. It was a store of wines, books and artwork; then-Mayor Dr. Charles O. Boyette stopped by for the ribbon cutting.

“Then, people asked to have ‘a bite to eat’ and a glass of wine, so in 2004 we built a restaurant addition and called it The Back Bay Café. Then people asked for our retail items to be available in Washington, so in 2005 we opened Wine & Words II … in Washington,” McKelvey and Sedgwick wrote in a 2011 letter.

Juggling all three businesses was a challenge, so in late 2011, the two closed up shop in Belhaven and moved to an expanded store in Washington.

WINE RACK: Wine & Words … & Gourmet features a selection of more than 300 types of wine, from Italy to France to Australia.

Wine & Words II became the only Wine & Words, with the “… & Gourmet” part added on soon after the expansion to incorporate the food aspect.

“When we started in Belhaven, we started with 40 wines. I remember that number. We now have over 300, so that’s how much we’ve grown,” Sedgwick said. “This past week … somebody said that, ‘I really wish you’d open a restaurant in town,’ and I say, ‘No. No thank you!’”

McKelvey and Sedgwick are both happy to put all of their energy into the expanded shop, and while there is a solid, local clientele, the two also enjoy welcoming visitors to downtown and suggesting other places to go, if needed.

“The best advertising is that we’re right here on Main Street. And so that’s what, to the Harbor District people and the Chamber people and everything, they say, ‘What can we do for business?’ I say, ‘Bring people to Washington. We’ll do the rest,’” McKelvey said. “We’re not exactly on anybody’s delivery route for gourmet foods in Washington, but that’s why we’ve been able to survive and thrive for 15 years, is because we brought something to this community they haven’t had before.”

McKelvey and Sedgwick are proud of what they’ve built — even if their original intention was to retire when they moved to Beaufort County. As McKelvey puts it, breaking into a smile, they came to retire, but now they’re just tired.

No matter, they plan to keep Wine & Words going strong for years to come.

“We’re older and wiser, and we know more about what we’re doing. When we started out this was just an idea,” he said. “We know about two-thirds of our customers by name. These are local people who thank us for being here and bringing this to this town.”

“That’s what it’s about, really, is working with each other,” Sedgwick said.

FOOD CONNOISSEUR: Chef Yvonne Sedgwick discusses some of the gourmet food Wine & Words offers, whether it’s grits straight from the mill in Oak Ridge, North Carolina, or cheeses from Ireland, England and Holland.