Passion for wine industry leads to father-son partnership
Glencoe resident Bud Schwarzbach is 80 and still pursues his passion: Wine. And he's turned that passion into a business he shares with his son.
The two love it so much, and the industry behind it, that they and the managers at their Vin Chicago stores in Barrington, Naperville, Highland Park and Chicago, taste test up to 600 wines a month.
Now, before you think they're overindulging, bear in mind that they spread the 600 among all six of them just once a month. They include their findings along with flavor notes, how it's made, what region the grapes were grown, and other details in an e-newsletter sent to customers, Bud said.
"We're looking at the quality and judging whether it is a good representation of the label," he said.
They also narrow down the list to about 120 wines that meet their criteria and whether they're able to obtain them at good prices and sell them at reasonable prices to consumers, he said. "Most of the wine stores don't do this," Bud said. "And that's what differentiates us."
After Bud graduated from the University of Illinois with a business and marketing degree in 1956, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served as a 3rd class petty officer at Pearl Harbor for about 2 years.
When he returned to Chicago, he started working for his father, who owned 12 liquor stores around the Western suburbs. The stores, named Famous at the time, dated back to the 1930s when his grandfather started them. Around 1985, the stores were renamed Wine Discount Center, Bud said.
The more Bud learned about wine, the more he liked everything about the industry. He eventually sold the liquor stores and decided to focus on selling wine. In 2013, he opened the Vin Chicago wine shops.
His focus intensified and he learned about various vintages, labels, companies and how producers create their lines. "It's more interesting than selling the same product every year," Bud said.
His son Peter, in a way, also had other plans for his career by starting out in the automotive, manufacturing and semiconductor fields for about 15 years. He also enjoyed sailing his boat from Montrose Harbor in Chicago and competing in the Chicago-to-Mackinaw and other races, he said.
"At first, I didn't think I would like to be in business with my dad, but the time was right," Peter said.
So the father and son tried working together on a six-month trial basis. That was in 2000, they said.
"I just got hooked on it," said Peter, 46. "It happened so naturally. It was month seven or eight by the time I realized the trial period was over."
They decided to keep it permanent. So Bud eventually handed over the business to his son, but still keeps his hand, and his palate, involved.
"My palate is still as good as ever," Bud said.
Rainbow of flavor
Chocolate and vanilla aren't enough for Robert Brescia. How about 85 flavors of salt water taffy? Brescia has opened his second Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop in St. Charles. The first Rocket Fizz opened about a year ago at The Glen Town Center, a former Naval Base turned upscale lifestyle center in Glenview. The shop features more than 85 flavors of salt water taffy, 3,000 types of candy, 500 varieties of bottled sodas, and hundreds of retro and gag gifts, tin signs, concert and movie posters.
Utilities aim to help
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