EVERETT — Four banks turned down Eric and Krista Brown’s request for a loan to open a wine and beer store.
The fifth said yes, but only after the couple made it a point to respond to every one of their inquiries, post haste.
“They’d send us an email on Tuesday at 10 a.m. and we’d get back to them right away,” Eric Brown said. “They told us that was one of reasons they said … ‘yes,” he said.
The couple’s experience doesn’t appear to be unusual. Big banks currently approve about 13 % of all business loan applications, while the approval rate at smaller banks was about 18%, according to the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, which tracks loan data. Economic uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic has led to tighter lending standards, so give the lender a well-organized business plan and be prepared to answer questions, experts say.
In December, the Browns opened The Grape & Grain — Fine Wines and Craft Beer store at 6502 Evergreen Way in Everett.
The store carries some South American and French wines, but the main selection “is wine from our backyard — Washington, Oregon and California,” Brown said.
The same goes for the store’s beer, ale and cider selection — from the backyard, he said.
“The first thing people look for is local,” said Brown, the former director of beverage operations at Holland America Cruise Line.
“We try to focus on wine and beer that supermarkets don’t always offer,” he said.
A grocery store may stock a brewery’s flagship beer, but not have the shelf space to carry “the five or six brands it also brews,” Brown said.
Customers can also pick up “crowlers” 32-ounces of the store’s on-tap beers that are canned and sealed on the spot. Unlike glass growlers, the canning system protects beer from flavor-killing UV light, Brown said.
The Grape & Grain also carries non-alcoholic beer, kombuchaand sodas along with wine glasses and accessories.
When the cruise industry collapsed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Eric Brown, a certified sommelier and ‘cicero’ — beer expert — found himself out of a job.
He and wife, Krista, had intended to open a wine and beer store when they retired, but the pandemic accelerated their plan, giving them time to work out the details and present their business proposal to those five banks.
In search of an Everett-area storefront, the Browns spotted a former gym for rent next to Popeye’s Chicken on Evergreen Way.
It’s been transformed.
Black and white photos of Prohibition-era bootleggers, speakeasies and a mug shot of Al Capone deck the walls. Tasting tables and chairs are scattered throughout the store.
The latest addition? An outdoor patio with a white picket fence for a daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m.
“We’re here to help you find something you like,” Brown said. “Wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be good,” he said
The Grape & Grain
6502 Evergreen Way, Everett
Sunday – Monday: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m; Tuesday – Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m; Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods