Connie Lewis has the job you didn't know you wanted. The pretty 30-year-old blonde spends her days in fine restaurants, hotels and custom homes, helping wine lovers and experts design tony treasure chests for their precious bottles. And despite what you might think, her upscale niche profession has remained largely unaffected by this recent economic downturn.
See--trickle down works. Wealthy wine loves have created a job.
As a representative of Vineyard Wine Cellars, Lewis counts the Mansion on Turtle Creek and the brand-new Hilton Bella Harbor in Rockwall among her clients--pretty much a world away from her start in veterinary medicine. "I feel very lucky," she says of the accidental path that brought her to wine cellar design.
A wine-lover from way back, she took a job at International Wine Accessories (a well-known catalog outfit) after deciding that her initial career choice was a non-starter. Four years ago, she hooked up with Vineyard fell in love.
Founded in 2002, Vineyard Wine Cellars caters to everyone from at-home hobbyists to world-class sommeliers. On any given afternoon, Lewis might find herself confab-ing with connoisseurs (we do so love alliteration at City of Ate) in a stylish bar or climbing through a construction site, clad in a hardhat.
Believe it or not, she prefers the latter. Beaming as she describes the creative process of collaborating with an architect, Lewis explains that "it really makes the job worth it" to see a design through from the ground up.
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One of her recent luxe installations featured custom-stained mahogany with accents specially sourced to match the interior of a private Preston Hollow manse. On the smaller side, it housed a modest 800 bottles. Right now, she's planning a 6,000-bottle mammoth--but that one isn't for show. Nearly two hundred square feet, with just a single narrow walkway, it'll stay locked up tight to keep the owners' valuable investment safe and sound.
The bare minimum from Vineyard runs about $15K. That's roughly what you earn for half a minute of work in a Lehman Bros. corner office. And that gets you a basic, unstained redwood model. Work for a few hours at Lehman, and you can purchase a beaut, complete with special features, premium materials and custom computer monitoring systems. And Lewis says business is brisk, despite the recession. "We've stayed pretty steady the last couple of years," she asserts.
While the company has seen a decline in sales when it comes to homes in the under $1M range, at seven figures-plus, the game is still on. Lewis' highest-end customers don't change their tune with economic ups and downs--you know, unless we increased their taxes. Then they'd have to scale down to that $15,000 model. Hotels and restaurants are still opening as well, and these days a strong wine program is a must. Flipping through Lewis' portfolio of plush projects--some professional-grade, some just for show--will most certainly spark a craving for a rich glass of Cab.
But you probably keep yours in the pantry, and that's okay too.