Owner, Top Ten Wines
JOB DESCRIPTION: Retail wine sales, wine consultant.
YEARS LIVED IN COLUMBIA: 1969–1983, 1995–2007
ORIGINAL HOMETOWN: Born in Chicago Ill., but I consider Columbia my hometown. I am a Grant, West and Rockbridge kid.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., in 1988 with a degree in political science
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: I donated wine and wine tastings for the Missouri Symphony Society for several years and hope I will be asked to help in the future. I believe the renovation of the Missouri Theatre is vital to the health downtown Columbia.
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: I have worked in the wine business in some capacity since my senior year in college. I managed a very similarly styled wine shop and deli named Dexter’s in Winter Park, Fla. After five years at Dexter’s, I shared ownership in two restaurants in Orlando, Fla.: Big City Eats and The Junkyard (a blues bar and restaurant). Also in Orlando, I was a wine steward at Portobello Yacht Club, an award-winning restaurant for both food and wine. I moved back to Columbia in 1995 and opened Cherry Street Wine Cellar. We relocated and expanded in 1999 and later sold the restaurant in 2003. My current business, Top Ten Wines next to the Missouri Theatre, started in August 2003 and will move down 9th Street, across from Booche’s, to a larger upscale location that was previously the 9th Street Bookstore.
A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE: Marilyn Vernon, former partner at Bluestem Missouri Crafts. That business has thrived for 24 years because the partners are so dedicated to details and satisfying their customers. I am very proud of what my mother helped create, the 2005 Top Retailer of American Crafts.
WHY I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT MY JOB: There is always something new to learn—new vintages, vineyards, winemakers, wineries. The wine business has the reputation of being snooty and highbrow, but I have found that the people in the business and my customers are a joy to be around.
IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR ALIVING, I WOULD: Like to coach soccer at a competitive level. Besides wine, my passion is soccer.
BIGGEST CAREER OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME: I have always chosen locations for my business that have been off the beaten trail. Hopefully, my new location will confirm this notion and lead to greater success.
A FAVORITE RECENT PROJECT: Clearly, working on the details for my new location is my favorite new project.
WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: Beware of anyone in the business who considers himself or herself a connoisseur; look for enthusiasts.
WHAT I DO FOR FUN: I play both indoor and outdoor soccer—poorly, compared to years past, but I still enjoy the game. I also like taking my two dogs, Heidi and Alberto, for a run at our family vineyard.
FAMILY: Father, Tom Vernon; mother, Marilyn Vernon; sister, Sarah Vernon
FAVORITE PLACE IN COLUMBIA: Mount Nebo Vineyard just outside the city limits for serenity and Booche’s when I am winning at snooker.
ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: Being a small-business owner is very challenging no matter what type of business, especially in a town with so many big-box stores. I am proud to be able to provide a service as well as great products to my customers.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT: I grew up in Columbia, in the Spanish house on the corner of Garth and Stewart.