The neighborhood of Bexley certainly doesn't need to try very hard to get people to visit; after all, there's the Drexel, Capital University, beautiful mansions that are currently or have been home to some pretty famous people (including the Governor's Mansion), Rubino's Pizza and a Chipotle (that's right, I said it). But if there's any place you should definitely visit while in Bexley, it's grain + grape.
To say the craft beer scene is exploding in Columbus would be an understatement, but nevertheless, there are some people who are just now jumping on the microbrew bandwagon. This could not be any further from the truth for grain + grape owners Tom and Kim Snearey, both of whom have been having a long and dedicated love affair with craft beer. This love affair eventually became a business for them when they took over a local wine shop and decided to bring craft beer to Bexley in the form of grain + grape.
"We got into craft beer 25 years ago," says Kim who takes care of the bulk of the business. "We have been taking beer vacations, and on business trips we would try and find breweries before there were apps and you had to hunt these places down."
The couple have had a long relationship with many of the first brewers in Columbus, including Lenny Kolada. In fact, Kim used to work at Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub, now known as Smokehouse Brewing Company. As residents of Bexley for 25 years, they also used to regularly frequent the little local wine shop on the corner which offered a small collection of craft beer. For years they expressed interest in buying the shop, but it didn't look like former owner Mike Wilson was quite ready to sell.
"We had been trying to find space for almost a year to do something with craft beer," Kim said. Fortunately they would need to look no further than three blocks away from their home when Wilson finally decided to sell. On November 1, 2013, the Sneareys opened grain + grape as a wine and craft beer store to an incredibly positive reception.
While many craft beer stores are clustered closely together, grain + grape is located outside the cluster, giving microbrew hunters who live in the area an opportunity to enjoy their favorite local beers without having to drive too far. Kim reports that many of the customers are locals who drop in on their way home from work and want to enjoy a craft beer in the evening, and those are the people she and her husband are trying to please.
"It has been a tireless effort ever since [opening] to try and keep craft beer in here and try to figure out what people want," Kim said. "Probably 80% of people that come in live not even outside a mile from here. A lot of customers ride their bikes or walk here. We're basically catering to the neighborhood." The store typically has three to five different types of Bell's available, as well as many Ohio and Columbus-brewed beers such as CBC, Actual, Rockmill, Granville and more.
The neighborhood not only has a convenient location to track down locally brewed beer, but it will also soon have its very own watering hole as the Sneareys plan to reopen the bar portion of the store. "We hope to start with maybe six beers on tap," Kim said. "We want to make sure we have fresh beer and it moves."
Getting the bar ready has been a slower process since Tom, a full-time architect, has been doing most of the construction and is currently recovering from an injury. However, Kim is hopeful the bar will be up and ready in a month or two. In the meantime, there is still much work to do as the couple learns more about the business.
"I'm constantly on facebook tracking down who has the new beer. I also do the payroll, the bookkeeping, and social media," said Kim who also offers craft beer fans something you might not find in other stores - craft beer jewelry. For those who want to sing praises to their favorite beer or wine loud and proud, glass tile pendants made by Kim are available in the store and on etsy under the name Beaddawg.
As if her hands aren't full enough, Kim has also found that since wine is still being sold in the store, she has had to learn a lot about wine herself, but also has had to educate her customers on how to shop in the store. "People are drawn to the cooler," she said. "We have found the placement of the product in the store matters, so we're trying new signs and other things to lead people to the beer."
All in all, grain + grape has been a labor of love that has given the couple a lot of work, but also a lot of satisfaction in giving their very own neighborhood a place where craft beer and wine fanatics alike can access their favorite drink without having to drive too far, if at all. If you haven't had a chance to stop by grain + grape, get on over and check out their great beer selection. Even better, you can probably get a good bit of history about the evolution of Columbus' craft beer scene from Kim!