A Spark in the Community

Good afternoon from Butler & Bailey Market.  I hope everyone had a nice Mother’s Day and is having a good week.  The weather has been weird, we have had about every season of the year in one week.  It is a beautiful, sunny day today, maybe we can get a few in a row.

So, all week, people in Teslas have been pulling up beside me in my truck, laughing and pointing at me and my truck.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and it wasn’t any of the people I know who own Teslas.  I would just wave and smile back, hoping not to start any trouble with strangers on the road.  Well, yesterday morning, I needed gas on the way to work, and all the gas stations were out of gas.  It turns out the Southeast is out of gas.  Then I thought, that’s why the Teslas are making fun of me.  They knew I was going to be out of gas soon with nowhere to go.  Once again, I was late to the party on this information, and the joke’s on me.  I am sure they are enjoying getting the last laugh over everyone panicking about gas.  Guess it’s a good time to own a Tesla!

A customer emailed me last week inquiring about beef tenderloin.  She wanted to know when it will be on sale again.  We try to put it on sale quite often, since it is such a popular item for us.  This year has been a different story.  Beef prices have been high with little relief in sight.  I do want you to know we ask our suppliers every week if they can work out a deal for us on beef tenderloin, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.  I did talk personally to our largest tenderloin supplier a while back and reminded him of all the business we have given him over the years, especially during the Christmas season.  I thought for sure he might try to work out a favor for us.  He said he would check on it for us.  Well, I never heard anything back from him, and then he came by the store the other day.  I figured he came by to tell us about the deal he had on tenderloin for us.  Nope, he just came by to tell us he was retiring and to say goodbye.  I guess the joke’s on me again!  I wish him the best on his retirement, but we are back to the drawing board on beef tenderloin prices!

Last week I mentioned we are starting cooking classes back up in June.  We are starting out with only one class a week in June and limiting the class number to 12 people, instead of 16.  Apparently, there was a lot of pent-up demand for the classes, because two of the classes are already full, and the other two are filling up fast.  This all happened before we had a chance to officially post the classes on our website, which we will do along with this letter.  I apologize that not everyone will be able to get in a class that wants to for June.  Maybe in July we can offer more classes with higher capacity.  I know Barbara is excited about getting started back and is looking forward to seeing you in class!

On another note, I got the chance to play golf last Friday.  I was invited to play in a tournament to benefit Bearden High School.  As you might expect, I’m not a stellar golfer nor was I a stellar student when I attended Bearden, which probably explains why I sell groceries in Rocky Hill for a living instead of something like starting Tesla, the most popular electric car in the world.

Regardless of my outcome, Bearden has produced a lot of folks that have become leaders in their field, one of which is Chris Sparkman.  He owns a winery in Washington state.  He grew up right here in Rocky Hill, and I was in school with him at Bearden.  I don’t know this for sure, but I would guess he was not a stellar academic student at Bearden either.  I do remember he always did well with the girls.  I would often see him at Rocky Hill ballpark when we were growing up.  He would always have the pretty girls chasing him around, and I was always stuck playing butts-up against the concession stand wall with the rest of the guys the girls weren’t interested in.  That made him a stellar student in our eyes.  We were much more interested in girlfriend count than GPA.

I didn’t keep up with Chris after high school and lost touch with his family until I started working at the store many years later.  Chris’s father and brother are both architects, so when I decided to build a house, I called them to help me with design work.  Sometime during this process, they let me know that Chris had become a wine maker.  I didn’t think much of it at the time because I wasn’t a wine drinker and grocery stores couldn’t sell wine at the time, as well.  Moving forward several years to 2016, the laws changed, and grocery stores began to sell wine, ours included.  I still am not a wine drinker, but I am a big advocate for local businesses and other businesses that have a local connection, especially if I can promote their products in the store!

When it came time to stock our shelves in the wine section, I remembered Chris was a wine maker.  Even though I didn’t know the first thing about wine in general, much less his, I knew I wanted to sell Chris’s wine because I had a connection to him, and he was a local guy even though he lives in Washington now.  I found out who the distributor was for his wine and found out they were not as interested in supporting his wine as I was, so it was very difficult to get any.  I was frustrated with this, so I decided to do some research on Sparkman Cellars, which is the name of Chris’s winery.  I figured the only reason the distributor wouldn’t support a winemaker from our hometown is because the wine was not good enough to support?  Well, after research, I discovered Sparkman Cellars is a highly acclaimed winery.  Some of his accolades and awards include “Top 100 Winery in the World”, “produced more than 100 wines scoring 90 points or better”, “rising star”, “#21 in Top 100 Wines in 2016”, and, to top that, he and his wife were on the cover of one of the most respected wine magazines in the country. That’s like making the cover of “Rolling Stone”, for wine makers.

After discovering this and getting nowhere with the distributor for Sparkman wines, I decided to call Chris to see if he could help.  Well, between the two of us we convinced the distributor to order in some of his wine for me to sell.  I now may have one of the most complete selections of Sparkman wines of any wine retailer around.  I even put it on its own display piece in our wine section!  Ironically, his best-selling wine in our store is a Cabernet named Holler.  It was named after Red Holler, which is the holler across the street from the store that Wrights Ferry Road runs through (that’s about as local as it gets).  While I am proud of the fact that I finally have a great selection of Sparkman wines in the store, I am more proud of maybe being a small part in the story of a local guy that had a dream of starting an independent business, with a focus on family and community, and making it happen to great success.  That is a very familiar story for lots of folks like me, and I love having the chance of sharing it with you!

Sparkman Cellars is and will be a successful winery regardless of if I sell his wine or not, so that’s not really the point of Chris and I working so hard to acquire it for the store.  I think the real story is found when you recognize and appreciate the talent that our community and local schools have produced, and you proudly display it for all to see.  This may be in the form of a parade, a trophy case, or the name on a building… or maybe on a small wine display in an independent, local, family-owned grocery store in Rocky Hill.

Thanks for your business and thanks letting us be a part of your community!

Tom Butler

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