City Vineyard is fermenting a new plan: to move into a new 5,000-square-foot space—doubling the current footprint—at the end of February. In collaboration with developer Steve Corning, new construction is underway.
It is apropos that Becky Reno’s new expanded venture is located on a street named Golden Valley. Reno has proven to have the Midas touch.
The owner of 21 City Brew stores in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming and the former owner of Billings’ Video Library has sold City Vineyard to her daughter and son-in-law, Abby Reno and Ryan Nordlund.
The biggest change may be the departure of longtime store manager Carolyn Korb, who started with City Vineyard when it opened in 1998 at Grand Avenue and 22nd Street West, and then coordinated the 2005 relocation to 17th and Grand. Korb could not be reached for comment.
“We appreciate everything Carolyn has done to bring us to where we are today,” Abby Reno said. “She has a legacy here and we are very thankful. She made the decision to start a new chapter. We are also starting a new chapter in our lives.”
James Kordonowy, a designer with A&E Architects, said the new City Vineyard “is much more spacious and open and conveys more of an urban market feel, while the lounge area will definitely be a more intimate and stylish space.”
Kordonowy said the lounge will have a lower ceiling, comfortable lounge seating and a more contemporary ambiance. “While there will be seating at a bar area,” he said, “we definitely want this space to be a comfortable lounge space rather than a ‘bar’.”
Nordlund and Reno grew up in Billings and graduated from Central High School. Reno pursued a business degree at the University of Montana in Missoula while Norlund obtained his law degree from UM.
For 11 years, Nordlund worked in the Yellowstone County attorney’s office, from which he resigned last fall. Reno returned to Billings in 2006 after a stint at Nordstrom’s in San Francisco to work as director of retail operations for City Brew.
“I have learned a lot and continue learning,” she said. “I feel like I have a City Brew MBA in business development.”
Nordlund said his experience as an attorney will help him in his new position as co-director of operations at City Vineyard. “There is a big learning curve,” he said. “It feels like being in law school again.”
After reuniting at a friend’s barbecue, the two married in 2013. These days, they partner as co-directors of operations, tapping Reno’s expertise in the front of the house and Nordlund working more behind the scenes.
Nordlund said the lounge at the new City Vineyard will have “a comfortable, cozy feel, a tap room feeling. You can come in and fill a growler with beer or wine.” It will also be serving gourmet food, with an emphasis on meats and cheeses, and a wall of coolers will hold for a variety of bottled beers.
Daniel Sutter, joining the team as market manager, hopes to get people excited about food ingredients and to build tastes, to encourage people to step “out of their comfort zones, allowing the palate to grow.”
Reno said Genia Castro, the new store manager and wine buyer, has been “running the bar, the tasting side for a year and a half. Genia can pick wines to sell by glass and they sell out in the store.”
Hoping to emulate the success of City Brew, City Vineyard is also looking at opening a store in Bozeman in a few years.
“We are evolving the concept,” Reno said, hoping “to appeal to a greater scale, to cover more people of different ages. We want to reach the whole consumer base.” Because “wines can be intimidating for many people,” she said, they want to create a calm, comfortable place for shopping.
“We want to build the model in the new location,” she said. “It will be our concept store.”
“What works in Billings may not work somewhere else,” Kordonowy said. “Every location that we work on has something that is recognizable and speaks to the local community.”
Meanwhile, Reno’s strategy is in team building.
“We have people who are passionate about the product,” she said. “We will have tastings and more events for customers who are hungry for new products and items.”
Several employees are preparing to take the exam for Level 1 Court of Master Sommeliers certification, and Nordlund will embark on the Cicerone Certification Program for beer professionals, to help him help his customer find the beer they’re looking for.
City Vineyard’s plans will continue to ferment until the first uncorking at 1335 Golden Valley Circle early next year.