2004 The Launch of Sunset Cork Room
Once The Wine Store was open I turned my focus to the restaurant. I met with a local well known Chef here on the island about my vision. To his credit (and many since then) he said it wasn't his thing but he knew someone that would be a great fit. The next day, Chef Rudy Rudolph came into my life. The man can cook, has a great palate, very creative and confident. He was our Chef for the first nine years.
It was a wine bar, so we created an environment that was about what makes wine great. We had small plates people could share, USDA Prime Beef, local artisan cheeses, romantic atmosphere, music, fine wines and fine whiskies.
I was new in town. I knew 2 people when I moved here. I certainly thought "build it, they will come". I mean who wouldn't want this kind of date place? I couldn't have been further from the truth. No one wanted to share their plate, and why was it so small? Artisan cheese? Don't ya have some cheddar and crackers I can have with this sweet white? Oh my, what have I done? One thing for sure, I did not understand my demographic.
I wasn't about to throw in the towel that easy. So I spent a shit ton of money on advertising. I was bound and determined to get my vision across if I had to cram it down someones throat! There is a lesson in that move that is a little too painful to go into right now.
We opened with a private party in April 2004. I had friends come from all over the country. I was soooooo proud. Have I mentioned that I had no idea what I was doing? Everyone was being very kind and supportive, meanwhile Rome is burning. We made some necessary adjustments and opened with a soft opening in May and held our Grand Opening on June 6th. Which means, we celebrated our 16 year anniversary last Saturday. Yay me.
The first three months were painful. You can spend a tremendous amount of money on advertising with no results. Newspaper, radio, coupon books, website, social media, e-mail. It is pretty overwhelming. We would go days without a single customer. We thought for sure we were done.
Then on September 16th, 2004 Hurricane Ivan came ashore right here in our little town and rolled right up Highway 59.