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Inspiring Conversations with Chris Kolemainen of Clayton Winehouse

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Kolemainen.

Hi Chris, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a Michigan native who fell in love with wine while bartending & studying business at the University of Kansas. I’ve been in the beverage business for under 15 years, working primarily on the retail side, with a bit of on-premise time. In 2021, after 12 years as a boutique retail buyer, I embraced my dream of owning a small business and opened the Clayton Winehouse with two great partners. It is Saint Louis’ first hybrid bottle shop & wine lounge and is modeled after the numerous wineries & tasting rooms we’ve visited throughout our adventures.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Overall, I’m fortunate enough to say that things have gone pretty smoothly throughout my career. I’ve been lucky to work with and learn from many great people. One of my biggest challenges is that I tend to resist change once I get comfortable. I enjoy the comfort and familiarity found in a long-term position. Because of this, leaving my previous workplace and going all in on this new concept was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We are a brand new concept in the St. Louis market, a mix of retail wine stores (beer & spirits) and a tasting lounge. We specialize in small-production boutique wines from around the world, as well as library releases, large format bottles, and hand-selected spirits barrels such as Bourbon, Rum, and Tequila. You can shop for the perfect dinner pairing, taste through an educational wine flight or pop open any bottle in the store and enjoy it in our lounge area! In addition, we offer a small patio, a climate-controlled cellar, and a spectacular underground event space.

In addition to our selection, we are known foremost for the striking esthetic of our building – hanging chandeliers, glass floors, and cherry wood racks create the feeling that you’ve just been transported to a winery tasting room. What makes us unique at Clayton Winehouse is that we open the bottles! We regularly feature exciting new wines by the glass. We open wines you usually wouldn’t see on a standard restaurant wine list. We genuinely want our customers to learn more about wine by tasting it, and we believe wine marks the occasion.

We all have different ways of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
For me, success is synonymous with fulfillment. While achieving big goals is important, I want the journey to that goal to be just as exciting and rewarding. And that goes for both myself and those around me.

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