It’s always wine o’clock somewhere for Melissa Costa and Julia Walderzak.
The two moms and longtime friends teamed up at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to start a new venture together: Decanted Wine Truck.
The business, housed in a completely renovated vintage camper they’ve named “Winona,” travels on wheels all throughout Massachusetts to bring carefully-crafted boozy events directly to customers.
“It’s a one-stop shop. We literally bring a wine bar to your house. We set up everything. It’s gorgeous. We can do the catering as well […] And you don’t have to lift a finger,” said Ms. Walderzak.
As a self-described wine connoisseur, the concept for the wine truck business was one Ms. Walderzak says she’s had in the back of her brain for some time. But when the coronavirus crisis wiped out dozens of accounts for the kids’ fitness business she owns, she started seriously considering exploring it as a real possibility.
She approached her friend Melissa — a hairdresser of more than 15 years who also found her day job being significantly impacted by the nature of the pandemic — with the idea, and the two decided to partner.
Equipped with the seemingly crazy idea, according to them, the duo started searching for campers to make the vision come to life sometime around April of 2020. After almost a year of making renovations to the camper, getting the proper licensing and certifications in order, finding a wine distributor, conducting wine tastings, and designing the types of event packages they wanted to offer, they were ready to take Winona online.
“So it took a full year to get everything kind of operational,” Ms. Costa said. “And then we started booking in April [of 2021] and it’s been insane ever since.”
Now, the creatively-titled Chief Wine Officers find themselves traveling all across the Bay State any day of the week to help customers celebrate their special occasions. From 40th birthday parties and 60th wedding anniversaries, to mom’s nights out, microweddings, and corporate events, Decanted Wine Truck can personalize any special event and make it one to remember.
For those who aren’t wine drinkers, it’s no problem. Though labeled a ‘wine truck,’ Decanted also offers beer and craft cocktails so that there’s something for everyone at these events.
And of course, what would a wine party be without the cheese (and crackers, and grapes, and veggies, and charcuterie boards)? Backed by the commercial kitchen space of the Worcester Regional Food Hub, the pair is able to do a lot of their own food prep and cooking in order to offer a catering menu.
As members of the Food Hub, they say the organization has “been a great resource” for them — from the 24/7 accessibility which allows them to get their wine dropped off there and prep for events on their own time, to Director Shon Rainford’s help walking them through the required ServSafe courses. What’s more, they’re able to make connections with other local food entrepreneurs also utilizing the Food Hub, a network that comes in handy when Decanted wants to outsource select catering jobs. “There are a lot of different connections [in the Food Hub] which we’ve said we need to explore more…a lot of different businesses making cool food and they’re local,” Ms. Costa said.
Staffing the business on their own, the two ladies are doing an average of three to five events a week while juggling their other respective jobs, kids, and families. During a mid-July interview, they said Decanted was pretty much booked solid through August, and they were already starting to fill up for September through November, as well as starting to take bookings for 2022. “We’re at the point now where we’ve had to turn so many people away because it’s just the two of us and Winona, which is why we recently purchased another truck which is going to be renovated for next season,” Ms. Walderzak said.
And the popularity of the business isn’t something either of them see going away anytime soon. Born in a time when small crowds and social distancing were necessary safety measures, the private and outdoor setting Decanted Wine Truck provides was a major selling point. Melissa and Julia anticipate the demand for something like that is here to stay.
“People don’t feel as comfortable being in huge, large groups with people they don’t know. I think there’s something to be said about really keeping your friends close,” said Ms. Walderzak.
“I don’t think that’s going to change,” Ms. Costa added. “I think people’s mindsets have changed [as far as] what they’re comfortable with now just knowing what could happen.”
At the end of the day, pandemic or no pandemic, both see what Decanted has to offer as being unique. “We’re providing an experience. So it’s not just: we roll up, open a table, and pour wine,” said Ms. Walderzak. “We’re bringing this beautiful, unique experience to your house. And people love having a unique option.”
In addition to bringing a second camper online next season, Melissa and Julia have other concrete plans for expanding Decanted. They’ll be hiring extra hands to help and are currently working on getting licensed to operate in Rhode Island as well. In the future, they envision possibly operating several campers in multiple New England states and having a manager at each location.
Dominique Goyette-Connerty is the Director of Communications at the Worcester Chamber. She can be reached by email here.
This story was originally published in the August 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.