UnWined Up North

Don’t be fooled by the name—UnWined Up North—as this up and coming new wine bar and eatery in Grand Rapids will have much more to offer than simply wine. While wine is a large part of the vision of Tia and Lars Starks new business, creating a fun and relaxing atmosphere for the community tops their list of priorities.

UnWined Up North will open this Tuesday, June 18. However, the idea to open the wine bar came to Tia back in November of last year.

“I had been thinking about it for awhile, but that was when I first voiced it out loud that I wanted to start a business,” Tia said.

Tia, an early childhood special education teacher, brought the idea to her husband Lars, a flight paramedic of 28 years currently working with Guardian Flight in a leadership position, who said she should start playing with the idea.

“So I played really hard,” Tia added.

After drafting business plans and meeting with various entrepreneurial funds, the two began to look for buildings in January. After securing a space, it was time for these new business owners to start getting everything in order. Defining their vision and goals for the business would be the first on the list. To do so, they had to think of why they wanted to start this business in the first place.

Both Tia and Lars are long-time wine enthusiasts. Lars began a wine tasting group in St.Cloud and Tia has enjoyed touring wineries in both California and Minnesota. When she realized just how many wineries there are in Minnesota, 67 to be exact, she wanted to be able to bring that experience to the community of Grand Rapids.

“I think we have a really cool thing going,” Tia said. “I think it’s going to be beautiful and something really different.”

UnWined Up North will offer a selection of wines from Minnesota wineries, along with additional alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Tia and Lars are focused on making an experience for patrons that will be fun and relaxing, words not often associated with the world of wine. Often assumed to be only for fancy occasions and seasoned wine tasters, Tia and Lars are hoping they can make the perception of wine more welcoming.

“I just hope people, you know, whether they like wine or they don’t like wine, that they give it a try,” Tia commented. “We’re like training wheels for wine drinkers.”

To help those who don’t know the in’s and out’s of wine, patrons will have the option to do a wine tasting. They will receive five tokens and will try one wine at a time. This will allow the guest to talk with their server about what they did and did not like about the wine, hence, influencing what their next choice will be.

Each month the wine bar will feature a guest winery to ensure there are always new options for guest to try. Alongside there will be anchor wineries that Tia and Lars have partnered with. Partner wineries include Cannon River, Carlos Creek, Forestedge Winery and Willner Heritage Winery.

Accompanying the large selection of beverages, UnWined Up North will also offer food options including appetizers, sandwiches, flatbreads and desserts. A not-so-typical charcuterie board will be available to customize, an option not always given with this dish.

Lars commented, “The meat and cheese tray probably took the most thought because Tia and I went around Minnesota and Wisconsin touring wineries.”

For those not as familiar with the charcuterie board—it essentially breaks down into a board filled with various cheeses, olives, nuts and meats. At UnWined Up North, customers will be able to choose exactly what goes on their board.

The interior design was heavily influenced by the surrounding Minnesota scenery. Jordan Weis, long-time friend of Lars and owner of Weis Guy Images, provided photography of Minnesota nature to line the walls of the restaurant.

“Local was important to us,” Tia remarked.

Tia and Lars also based many decisions around the copper bar top they chose. They selected pieces to create what they called, “a softened industrial” design.

Becoming first-time business owners along with opening a wine bar and eatery all within less than a years time is no small feat and certainly came with challenges.

“I like learning,” Tia commented,” But, it’s just there’s no guide to tell you how to do it.”

She continued, “We’ve learned a lot. Every decision leads to 30 more.”

Both Tia and Lars commented that the experience and skills they have gained from their day jobs has proved useful in their venture.

“For me, it’s a lot of similarities in that it’s a leadership position—making decisions and managing things,” Lars said.

“The creativity is the same and being able to think of 20 things at once,” Tia added. “But I think this is going to be a totally different game and it’s going to be fun to have adult conversations.”

UnWined Up North will be opening Tuesday, June 18. Summer hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Unwined Up North is located at 31 NE 3rd St. in Grand Rapids. A grand opening will be hosted later this summer. For more information, visit their website, https://winebargrandrapidsmn.com/. For recent updates, check out the Facebook page at “UnWined Up North.”

“We want people to laugh because people work hard, but it’s hard to connect to each other,” Tia expressed. “I think we have a great community. Rapids has a really fun people and people are excited for something just a little bit different.”

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