By Maureen Werther
Jes Rich chose the name of her new shop wisely. Sage Wine & Spirits, which opened at 55 Front St. in Ballston Spa in July, is all about helping people learn more about wine and spirits.
With a focus on sustainable, local, organic and craft products, Rich feels the village of Ballston Spa is “ripe for this kind of boutique business,” and she is excited to share her knowledge with customers as they expand their palates and try locally produced wines and spirits.
Rich is encouraged by the reception she has already received from other shop owners, customers and local residents, calling the village “a wonderful community.”
Rich has an eclectic background and is something of a “sage.” Originally from the area, she moved away to attend college, receiving her undergraduate degree in sociology from Amherst College in Massachusetts. From there, she went on to receive masters degrees from University of Chicago, Tufts, and the University of Sterling in Scotland.
In between her academic studies, she worked in the fields of college administration and resident life, as well as gaining knowledge and experience in horticulture and sustainable practices while working on organic farms around the country.
After returning to school once more, this time enrolled in the doctoral program at Tufts, she decided that the world of academia was not for her and, in the spring of 2014, she returned to her roots.
It was here that she began to cultivate an interest in wine.
"I don't have a very extravagant lifestyle," said Rich. "But I do like good food and good wine."
After working for a season at Brookside Nursery in Ballston Spa, where she gained valuable retail experience, Rich took a job at a nearby wine shop. Soon thereafter, she was hired by the Thirsty Owl in Saratoga and discovered, to her delight, that New York state wines had come a long way while she was away from home.
She also realized that she was good at selling wines, and she began to formulate a plan for opening a shop of her own.
Working with the Small Business Development Center in Albany, she developed a business and marketing plan.
"The people there were outstanding," she said. "They helped me put together my business plan and that enabled me to get a loan to open the shop. Then, I just got really lucky with the location."
In January, as she was leaving the Village Clerk's office, she noticed the "for rent" sign at 55 Front St.
"I fell in love with the space, and I knew If I didn't rent it, someone else would," she said. She signed the lease within the next two weeks and opened her doors the end of July.
She also joined the Ballston Spa Business Professionals Association, calling it "a great group with a lot of friendly people who also own small businesses. We all share a lot of the same issues and challenges."
Rich sees opportunity for cross-promotional activity. She cites the nearby shop A Bead Just So as an example, saying that they are already planning to make beaded wine charms. She also features rustic furniture pieces from Deadwood Field & Furniture, located just a few doors from her shop on Front Street.
Rich's collaborative efforts extend to the inventory she carries in her shop. She is already working closely with High Rock Distillery in Ballston Spa and Yankee Distillers in Clifton Park, whose products are already on her shelves.
"We are planning events this fall to showcase each of these local distillers' products here in the shop, as well as working with several area vineyards. I really feel that working collaboratively is a key to the success of a business."
Sage Wine & Spirits holds wine tastings every Friday between 4-7 p.m. The shop is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. The phone number is 490-2095. Its website is www.sagewinespirits.com.