After working in the wine industry for nearly nine years, Melissa Zeman has a lot of ideas about what a wine shop should be. Nine fully filled legal pads, to be exact.
But for now, she’s focusing on providing a comfortable and approachable wine-buying experience, educating customers and building community at her wine, beer, spirits and beverage shop BottlesUp!, located in the former wineHouse space in Lakeview.
“I want to bridge that gap between pinkies up and Two-Buck Chuck, where people are drinking good wine,” Zeman said. “A big deal for me is having quality wine at affordable price points.”
The wines range from $10 to $140 with room for special requests and vintages once the holiday season rolls around. She’s working with a whopping 50 distributors to find wines that fit her vision — many of which are from female importers or owners from regions all over the world, even lesser-known makers from Croatia and India.
The wines are organized by color, with rows of painted bottles on shelves overhead: pink for rosé, yellow for white, and red for red. Zeman hopes this visual representation of the wines will help guide the conversations about the customers’ drinking preferences and what price point they’re seeking. Plus, it’s a great way to display some personal touches, like a Lollapalooza koozie or a set of painted wooden Swedish horses, gifted to her by a customer.
But BottlesUp! isn’t just selling wine. Zeman is also selecting spirits, like aquavit and gin, and beers from local breweries. There’s even a small magnetic whiteboard stuck on the side of the beer fridge for guests to propose what brew they want to find there next.
A self-proclaimed cheeseball, Zeman hopes the neighborhood will further its wine education through the BU wine club (spelled like the name of the store and pronounced “be you”), which comes at three price points for membership. Participants get to learn about and taste wines, as well as get a say in what ends up on shelves. But even if you don’t join the club, you can still learn how to detect different aromas at smelling stations or check out the handwritten tags on each bottle.
“This is my 20-year plan,” Zeman said with a laugh. “I hope it works out. I have so many ideas and I just can’t wait to execute them.”
Without pausing to take a breath, she excitedly talked about various plans for the future of BottlesUp, such as organizing a rosé 5K, hosting business seminars for women and establishing an environmentally friendly donation center for wine bottles and corks. Zeman also plans to carry packaged goods from small makers and display work from local artists.
“I’ve already partnered with a lot of different businesses and restaurants and I just want to continue that because that’s what life is all about — partnering together and being a friend and a part of the community,” she said.
VERNON HILLS — City Works Eatery and Pour House is opening Oct. 14, making it the 10th location in the country of the Schaumburg-based chain. The restaurant will feature craft beer and American bites, plus TVs and two expansive patios. 929 N. Milwaukee Ave., 815-975-0955, cityworksrestaurant.com
BUCKTOWN — Despite its marijuana-themed menu, Cheba Hut will not serve any food with THC or CBD. However, the Arizona-based restaurant will offer up sandwiches, salads, sides and specialty drinks. Sandwiches come in “nug” (4-inch), “pinner” (8-inch) or a “blunt” (12-inch) sizes and feature marijuana strain names like the Jamaican Red, with spicy chicken breast, green peppers, jalapeno, black olives and cheddar; the Sticky Icky, with peanut butter and jelly; or The Dank with marinara, Genoa salami, pepperoni and provolone. Sides include brownies, rice crispy bars, a hummus platter and garlic cheese bread. The bar menu will feature cocktails like the Dirty Hippie, made with Deep Eddy Vodka, muddled fresh cucumbers and lemonade; or the Gin n Juice, with Seagram’s Gin, fresh orange juice and pineapple juice. This is the chain’s first Chicago location. Another is coming to the DePaul campus soon. 1739 N. Milwaukee Ave., chebahut.com
PILSEN — Sunday marked the final day of operations for La Catrina Cafe, the independent coffee shop that had become a neighborhood staple during its six-plus years in Pilsen. Wife and husband co-founders Diana Galicia and Salvador Corona opened La Catrina in 2013. They plan to move their family to Guanajuato City, Mexico, to open “a space for the community,” according to a Facebook post from late July, the pair’s first announcement of their plans. 1011 W. 18th St.
UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — The Rookery is closing because of a “shrinking neighborhood market lost to competition from other ‘hotter’ areas and the increasing cost of business,” according to an Instagram post. Owners blamed the neighborhood’s “constant need for being entertained by the ‘new’ in the city” and expressed that they may go in a new direction or maybe “it really is just time to say goodbye.” 2109 W. Chicago Ave.
WEST TOWN — Atomix Coffee is closing at the end of the month, according to a Facebook post. The coffeeshop was open for 19 years and the owners didn’t share any details on why the shop was closing, only encouraging patrons to visit one last time and redeem their free coffees. 1957 W. Chicago Ave.
Reporter Adam Lukach contributed.