Josh Wade: Pairing wine, social media
Judith SpitzerJanuary 29th, 2015
Josh Wade launched the Nectar Tasting Room in 2011 at 120 N. Stevens in downtown Spokane, after creating a successful wine blog called drinknectar.com in 2009. Wade grew his blog fans to more than 12,000 readers and used the momentum of social media success to propel the tasting room into a popular Spokane wine tasting venue.
Wade is also the owner of NectarMEDIA, a marketing company helping businesses with social media consulting and online digital media management.
This spring, Wade plans to open Nectar Wine & Beer, a wine, beer and cheese specialty store and pub in the Kendall Yards neighborhood, at 1331 W. Summit Parkway. He says he plans to have a soft opening in mid-March at the 2,200-square-foot space adjoining Veraci Pizza.
We sat down at the Nectar Tasting Room downtown to talk about the latest on Wade’s business concerns.
Journal: Your business strategy was a bit different in that you started a social media campaign that went viral before you opened the business. Tell me how that happened.
Wade: In 2009, I was working full time at Bank of America as a project manager.
I started writing this little blog, and I’d go down to the wineries around town and do a man-on-the-street video blog. I’d sit in my basement as kind of a wine amateur, and I’d write about the things I was learning about wine, because I was the average consumer.
Within nine months we were getting 12,000 unique readers a month and 20,000 page views. It was about producing content and interacting on social media. The blog was ranked in the top 50 or 60 wine blogs.
I called several wineries I had interacted with through social media, and pitched the concept of the Nectar Tasting Room. They’d never met me. They all pretty much said yes. We found this space (downtown.) In the beginning, we had 2,000 of the 3,000 square feet on this floor space, and when I opened on Jan. 6, 2011, all we did was blog about it. Traditional media picked up on it, and that helped with our awareness factor. We were slammed busy the first night, the first week, the first month, and the first three months, and then of course, it started to take the traditional ebb and flow of business.
In the first four years, we have spent very little on marketing, less than $1,000 on traditional media marketing, and if I spend any money on advertising, it’s usually Facebook advertising.
That’s how we got from point A to opening.
Journal: What has your revenue been over the past four years?
We’ve seen year-over-year growth. The first year revenue was a little under $200,000. Last year, we had $336,000 in revenue.
Journal: A part of that revenue is derived from being an events facility. How has that growth driven business?
Wade: It’s been nice to see the evolution of the business. Originally, the focus was entirely on wine, and then we started to see the interest in it being an events facility. We took over an additional 1,000 square feet, also on the first floor. Then we launched the private event business, doing 80 to 100 events a year in the last couple of years. The addition of Just a Couple of Mom’s Catering in the basement and offering an extended food menu has been helpful.
Journal: Have you added more staff to accommodate the growth in that business?
Wade: I’ve hired an events coordinator who has 25 years of experience as an events planner, and with the hotel and all the other business developments in downtown, especially here on Main Street, we’ll be expanding our hours.
Journal: Will you be spending more money on marketing and/or focusing on more traditional marketing in addition to social networks?
Wade: I’m going to jump into some different advertising to reach a different audience. We’ going to do a little more online advertising and we’ll actually experiment a little bit with radio, just from a brand awareness perspective.
Journal: Your Twitter account has 13,000 followers. How did you attract so many followers so quickly?
Wade: The first 7,500 followers were a lot of wine-related accounts. When I tweet it’s not all a Spokane audience, I wish it were. But the collective group that interacts helps increase the reach. It’s all brand awareness of Nectar and Josh Wade, so there is strategy to Twitter.
Journal: What are your goals for Nectar Tasting Room in 2015?
Wade: The goals for the tasting room are to increase our event revenue. It’s why I hired the professional events coordinator.
I (also) want to get our evening traffic on Friday and Saturdays back to where it was in the very beginning. We’ve seen evening traffic die off a little bit.
We’ll expand our hours to (align) more with winery operation hours. We’ll be open from 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and Saturday later in the evenings, starting in February.
Journal: Do you anticipate more traffic once Walt Worthy’s Grand Hotel is up and running?
Wade: We’ll have an increase in walk-in traffic because of the hotel, and we’re hoping to capitalize on the same feel the wineries over by the Davenport have. You walk over by the Davenport to those wineries at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and there’s usually people in there wine tasting. It’s because there are people in the hotel that are out doing stuff. They’ve got a conference. They’re checking in, and they’re walking around. That’s what we want to capitalize on.
Journal: How many employees do you have at the tasting room?
Wade: Currently just three (including Wade) and I’m in the interview process right now. We’ll be hiring two more for this location and probably five for the other location in Kendall Yards.
Journal: We’ve written about the addition of Nectar Wine & Beer at 1331 W. Summit Parkway opening in a 2,200 square-foot space in Kendall Yards. When will that location open?
Wade: We’re saying spring of 2015 which gives us a lot of leeway. But I’m hoping for soft openings by mid-March and a grand opening by April.
Journal: What’s been happening at the Kendall Yards location?
Wade: We haven’t had any problems building-wise. The window banners are up. The concrete floors are in. In the bar area, there’s a soft seating area and a retail side of things … it’s definitely progressed. The Hurtado | Hissong Design Group are the architects.
Journal: How will the Nectar Wine & Beer differ from the Nectar Tasting Room?
Wade: The concept is different. Nectar Wine & Beer is a retail wine and beer shop. It’s designed to be the place that the Kendall Yards community and beyond can come in and get wine from around the world. The emphasis will be on Washington, Oregon, and California wines, but also around the world. Technically, it’s a bottle shop. You will walk in and see bottles of wine you want to get. And craft beer.
In addition to that, there will be a 30-seat bar area where you can get wines by the glass, 12 craft beers on tap, and you can consume any of the wine you buy on-site. We will have a wide range of prices. The sweet spot of wine prices is $15 to $25 a bottle.
Journal: What excites you about the new location?
Wade: In general, what excites me is I love the five wineries we have here at the tasting room. I love them, and I love most of their wine. But I get into a little bit of a wine rut. It will be fun to explore some Italian varieties and get some Oregon pinot noir and a California cabernet and just be able to have different offerings.
Journal: You own another business called NectarMEDIA. When did you start that company?
Wade: NectarMEDIA has officially been in existence since 2012. For the first 1 ½ years the Nectar Tasting Room was open, I still had a full-time job. I quit Bank of America in February 2012. That’s what freed up my time to pursue NectarMEDIA.
I had already been doing a little teaching and training in 2010 and 2011, talking about social media, and occasional keynote talks, but nothing to the point where I had clients to work with. So that gave me some time in 2012 and beyond to focus on working with clients.
We’ve been fortunate to have some long-term clients. Over the course of the three years we’ve been doing NectarMEDIA, some of our clients include: Century 21 Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate, Washington Trust Bank, Inland Northwest Bank, and Orlison Brewing Co., in Airway Heights.
Journal: How do you drive social media for your clients?
Wade: The keys to social media success are consistency, engagement, and content. You can’t just have a Facebook page, or a Twitter page. You don’t just take your Twitter account and promote, promote, promote. You have to interact with the community. So when that person does say, ‘Hey I need a handyman that’s going to come out and fix something at my house.’ You kind of have that general sense that you know the person, trust the person, and you’ve interacted with them.
I find pretty much every person I hire to do certain things I’ve met on social media.
Journal: How many employees work for NectarMEDIA?
Wade: Myself and one other person.
Journal: What was Nectar-ME-DIA’s revenue last year?
Wade: I’m going to say less than $100,000 per year.
Journal: Which companies pro-vide you with the most income?
Wade: Think about the wine business and you have profit margins of anywhere between 25 to 40 percent –higher in the beer industry. I actually spend more of my time and energy doing work that’s NectarMEDIA-related. Income-wise, 70 percent of my income is from NectarMEDIA.
My goal of expanding business is to stay involved in what I’m passionate about, which is the wine industry. I love interacting with the people that come in, helping them discover new things, and watching celebrations happen here. You’ve got everything from people proposing, to people getting married, and lots of birthdays. It’s fun to be a part of things like that.
So Nectar Tasting Room and Nectar Wine & Beer and any other future business involvements provide that kind of residual income.
Journal: Will you be serving food at the Kendall Yards location?
Wade: We’ll be partnering with Veraci Pizza which is located in the same building we’re in, and we’ll create a unique menu that does not duplicate its menu. We’ll have small plates – salads and small plate appetizers and mini-versions of Veraci’s pizzas. So instead of full 16-inch pizzas, we’ll have smaller portion sizes.
I’m a fan of having great partnerships and being very strategic. And without (Veraci’s) partnership, I would have been hurting, because I don’t want to get into the restaurant business and have a full-service kitchen and all that.
Journal: You lost one of the five wineries you started with at the downtown tasting room. Who have you chosen to replace Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards?
Wade: Dec. 31 was the last day for Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards at the tasting room downtown. They chose to open a location in Leavenworth, which I think is strategic perfection for them.
So I’ve been on a hunt for a new winery, and I felt like I was in an enviable position because I got to pick, not only a winery that I thought would be a quality producer, but one that was in a great location, to accent what we already do.
Journal: Who is the new winery?
Wade: It’s Coyote Canyon Winery. They have a vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills near the Tri-Cities and a tasting room in Prosser.
We’ll be their second tasting room. What’s great about Coyote Canyon is that they grow over 115,000 acres of grapes, and they only use about 10 to 15 acres for their own production.
So they’re a resource for many wineries across the state – both large and small wineries - so we’re excited about their addition because they bring different wine that we’ve never really had access to.