When Chris Bratcher opened Riverside Wine and Spirits 15 years ago on Chattanooga's North Shore, the liquor store was the lone retail shop in a row of factories, mills and warehouses along Manufacturers Road.
"Everyone thought we were crazy to locate in the middle of all these manufacturers and warehouses," Bratcher said Friday. "But I could see there was tremendous opportunity here in a centralized, visible location between Lookout and Signal mountains and Riverview."
Bratcher, a 48-year-old former college professor turned businessman, has weathered the challenges of five years of construction along both U.S. Highway 27 and Manufacturers Road near his store.
"It was tough sometimes, but we ended up with both an entrance and exit ramp running almost straight into our parking lot from one of the most traveled highways in our area," he said."
Bratcher is so enthused with his 2-acre, 7,000-square-foot store location that he bought it last week, along with three adjacent acres of vacant land. Bratcher paid JIT Chemical Corp. and JIT Terminal Inc., his former landlords, $2.3 million for nearly five acres, according to Hamilton County property records.
Bratcher is still preparing plans to develop his newly acquired property, both for his own store and other commercial development.
"Down the road, there should be some really cool things happening here," he said.
The liquor store building he initially leased for only $6 per square foot is now in an area where other buildings are leasing for four time as much today.
For now, Bratcher is taking advantage of Tennessee's new alcohol laws to combine his separate beer and wine operations. Previously, Bratcher operated Riverside Wine & Spirits to sell wine and liquor separated by a wall from his beer business, known as Riverside Beverage Co.
"We can now sell all of those products in the same four walls for the first time so we're combining these businesses today," he said Friday.
Bratcher opened Riverside Wine and Spirits after acquiring a taste for fine wines while teaching political science at the University of the South in Sewanee.
"I figured Chattanooga could use a place for people to buy fine wines and this turned out to be a great location," he said. "There has been a lot more wine and craft beer stores open up in this area, but our business has continued to grow."
Bratcher also owns and operates a 7.5-acre winery in southern California where he makes about 2,500 cases a year that are sold in a dozen states. He maintains homes in both California and Chattanooga and shuttles his time between his two businesses.
"There are a lot of changes in our industry and in this area of town, but from those changes come great opportunities for the future," he said. "Stay tuned."
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 757-6340.