At the Aurora Shoe Company, we passionately support small business and handmade and local goods. As a visitor of our blog, we thought that you might feel the same way. In our Meet the Neighbors series we're featuring businesses and people who reflect our own values and whom we feel lucky to call neighbors and friends.
It's always fun to photograph unique spaces, and even more fun when they're lined with carefully curated beverages and swarming with the owners' cute kids. Mark and Olivia, creators of The Cellar d'Or, located on the Ithaca Commons, are friends and neighbors who know how to take a passion and turn it into a life.
How did you get into the business of wine, and when did you know that you wanted to sell and produce your own?
Curiosity helped Mark catch the wine bug, spurred by his family's interest in wine while growing up (the family are Italian citizens). He started taking some internationally recognized certification wine courses which led to some entry level jobs in retail shops in Westchester county, NY. Soon that passion led him to work for the famed Michael Skurnik Wines for 8 years, one of the greatest Importer/distributors in the country based out of Manhattan.
A somewhat natural progression in the business leads people to want to try making their own wine and the opportunity arose last year when Mark and a good friend came across grapes from a well known vineyard on Seneca lake. With the help of a couple of local winemakers they started Fossil & Till, their own wine label. In 2011we planted our own cider apple trees on Olivia's parents property. They will begin producing next year so stay tuned for a future cider label as well!
What drew you back to Aurora and what's keeping you here?
With two young kids on eastern Long Island, and 6 hours from the closest family, Olivia longed for her mother's help and missed home. On a late fall trip to Ithaca to see a concert at The State Theater, we discussed how the Commons definitely needed a wine shop. The next day we visited an empty retail space that 7 months later would become The Cellar d'Or. We chose to work in Ithaca but live in Aurora because of its proximity to family, the lakes and the simply bucolic and pastoral scenery and lifestyle- it's a great place to raise a family!
If you could give a piece of advice to someone looking to create a life based on their passion, what would it be?
With some determination and your own sweat equity, anything is possible. We had very little money (although we had a credit card!), and no investors, but managed to turn a dingy old clothing shop into a warm, inviting, aesthetically pleasing retail space with one heck of a cool wine & cider selection. We did all the work ourselves, used lots of imagination to create the space, and had the help of close friends and family to get the construction done. We just took it step by step, day by day, and worked toward our goal. We started small and just grew slowly without having to dig a huge hole financially. Thanks to our customers (who shop local and on the Commons!), we've been able to support our family and survive our first year, which is pretty cool, especially through the Commons reconstruction.
Why do you think it's important to buy local?
Not so long ago, everything came from a "mom and pop shop". Now, almost everything is "made in China" or otherwise imported. When you support local, you support your neighbors and local economy. There's enough talent and creativity in our small towns and cities that we shouldn't ever have to buy anything made half-a-world away and we think there's value in looking for local products and even paying a bit more for that type of quality!
We're huge supporters of the local wineries and cideries who are proving to be quality producers and who also think ethically and environmentally. We live in a beautiful region, and we want to do our part to support it, while taking advantage of what is has to offer. Wine, cider and beer are a huge and growing part of this mostly rural economy.
Can you tell us more about future plans?
The Mark and Olivia Think Tank is always full of ideas. The Cellar d'Or still has lots of growing to do, as does Fossil & Till. As for other adventures, you'll have to stay tuned! We have a few things in the pipeline!
Thanks, Mark and Olivia, for sharing your thoughts and your shop with us!
You can learn more about The Cellar d'Or by checking out their website. Stay up to date with their tastings and other news and events (including this recent mention in the New York Times) by following the Cellar d'Or on Facebook or Twitter.