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July 16, 2012

alegria wine and ware: friendly staff and affordable wines

by Molly Schiff
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“The wine industry is changing, educational, and a lot of fun,” says John Hance as we sit at a small table in his newly opened business, alegria wine and ware, looking out across the street in downtown San Luis Obispo at the old Spanish mission.

If people don’t find wine fun, they certainly will after visiting alegria. Located downtown San Luis Obispo at 942 Chorro Street, the tasting room and wine shop has a great, friendly vibe.

John Hance, his bother David Hance, and their wives, Lisa and Christine, all decided to go into the wine business together years ago. “My brother has nearly three decades of experience in the wine industry, and I have an extensive background in business.” John said. “Both of us have owned our own small businesses in the past, so it seemed like a natural fit for all of us.”

John, initially from Northern California, said they chose the San Luis location because his brother had already lived in the area for some time. “The economy where I lived at the time was suffering pretty hard. Much of that area was government employees or fairly rural and not the best place to start the type of business we wanted.” John said. “My wife and I felt it was best we just leave. Instead of trying to fight what was wrong and broken there, we’d get out.”

Once deciding on starting alegria in San Luis Obispo, things went surprisingly smooth. “We did struggle to find a good location in our price range- I actually found this place on craigslist,” John laughs. “Once we secured the property it was just a matter of getting plans drawn up, the business plan done, and pulling the trigger to start construction, which we began last October.”

Impressively, alegria opened shortly after on November 30, 2011. “Many thought we were crazy for wanting to have such a quick turn around, but we were able to pull it off.” John said.

And pull it off they certainly did. alegria has a laid back vibe, affordable hand-selected wines, and most importantly, a very knowledgeable and friendly staff.

“Customer experience is a big deal to us- engaging the customer, talking to the customer, and just making sure the customer understands that this is a learning process- there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” says John.. “We focus on a price point that’s $25 or below on purpose. We want to have wine in here that’s affordable, so it’s not painful to try new things. You can pick up a bottle here that it’s okay to drink that night and it’s not going to break the bank. You can even walk out of here with a really nice wine for $15, and know that somebody here has hand selected it because we thought it was a great value and a great wine.”

The low price point isn’t the only thing helping alegria stand out from other local wine spots. The wine shop’s unique focus is on hand-selected wines from Spain and  Portugal. “We wanted our focus to be on wines from Spain and Portugal for a number of reasons.” David said. “For one, the quality of stuff coming out of those regions is really phenomenal. The tradition and history behind the wines in that area is also very interesting. Plus- there’s the Spanish influence right across the street with the mission. It just seemed to be a very good fit with the quality of wines we wanted to make available to our customers.”

alegria also focuses on local wines, and offers a wide selection from the central coast. John says they’re beginning to widen their variety of wines that come specifically from San Luis Obispo County.

From their hand-picked, reasonably priced wines, to the modern vibe and décor, to the friendly, helpful and extremely knowledgeable staff, it’s hard to find a reason not to stop in for a tasting or to purchase a bottle at their shop, conveniently located in downtown San Luis Obispo.

“There’s nothing pretentious about what we do,what we have, or who we are. We enjoy wine. We believe wine is meant to be drunk,” John said. “We offer discovery winesat a reasonable price. People often say that in this area, with all the other wine bars around, there’s all this competition. There is, but there isn’t. We’re all doing something a little different.”

alegria wine and ware is located at 942 Chorro St. in San Luis Obispo. To learn more about their business, you can visit their website or call (805) 956-0200.

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