Booming business: New St. Clair wine house already preparing to expand

Mannina's quickly became a popular in venue St. Clair.
Downtown St. Clair is hustling and bustling with shops and restaurants popping up everywhere. There are bars, a brewery, great spots to grab handmade goods, places for all types of foodies, beautiful parks, views of the river, and more. Jim Meldrum and his wife, Annette, noticed that it was missing a place for wine lovers.


After watching a friend make wine and having their interest piqued, the Meldrums learned their craft and opened Mannina's Wine House in November in St. Clair's Riverview Plaza.


Jim and Annette Meldrum welcome wine lovers to their business.The two have lived in St. Clair County for decades, and Annette had often pondered starting a business with her grandmother's maiden name. The St. Clair Inn restoration and the visitors it will bring, though, really drove Jim and Annette to get started.


"The St. Clair Inn, that was over half the reason we decided to do this, and it was the right time for us, putting in maybe 10 years to build and having something for our kids to work on," Jim says.


Guests can sip on quality wine, or try a few types with a wine flight, made on location. There are 26 unique flavors now, branded Irvin James after Jim's late father, and ideas for more. The wine begins with a California supplier's concentrates made from domestic and international grapes, hen more ingredients are added, and the product is aged in Michigan. Classic fondue, charcuterie, and desserts accompany the main attraction.


The decor at Mannina's evokes a wine cellar's ambiance. Inviting windows, brick walls, dark wood accents and shelves of wine provide sophistication, but it still feels homey, inviting and genuine: space put together with care. It immediately feels like the type of place where you would always be laughing with groups of friends.


The Meldrums are working on creating that atmosphere and coming up with "extras," already hosting a baby shower, happy Wine lovers are happy to have a place to enjoy new experiences.hours, and putting on their own events like live jazz nights.


The popular Wine Bingo on Wednesdays will continue until the end of March. People can pay $35 a month to be part of the Mannina's Wine Club where they receive three bottles of wine per month, 10 percent off of everything including wine when they visit, a glass of wine on their birthday, and members-only private tastings before new wines roll out.


So far, the business, and especially its events, have been a hit. Wine Bingo started out with about a dozen participants and grew to fill the space (Mannina's seats 49 and will have patio seating once an outdoor seating license is obtained) the very next week. Jim says that type of support is his biggest success so far.


He has received a huge amount of enthusiasm from the community and is even noticing folks coming out from farther away. Things have been going so well that an expansion next door is in the works for fall.
The biggest challenge has been figuring out customer demand, like exactly what types of wine guests like and how much they drink.

It's a family affair at Mannina's Wine House in St. Clair.The prospects downtown are continuing to rise as small businesses open and flourish. Jim hopes other entrepreneurs will consider the area for their businesses, as he has found a close, encouraging community instead of competition.


"Even if my entire place and the expansion are full, the St. Clair Inn is supposed to bring thousands of people to St. Clair. They are going to need plenty of options and a whole busy area," Jim says.

One partnership has been the addition of Mannina's wine at War Water Brewery.


There was a huge amount of work preparing to open, and there is a huge amount of work now that customers are coming.


Making wine is an undertaking in itself, and then there are all of the business decisions and actually being there when the wine house is open. The family has been a huge help, Jim says. Their son aids in making the wine, their daughter is an accountant, and their three Mannina's Wine House is located at the Riverview Plaza in St. Clairother children help as much as possible. The Meldrum's have been learning as they go.


"Consistency is key. There were many times that I was in the middle of that room with so much to do wondering what comes next, but you just keep going and then suddenly it is your grand opening," Jim says.


When you want to get out, but don't necessarily want an entire meal, give Mannina's a try. It is perfect for couples or girls' night
out, and best of all, it is a true community space.


Mannina's Wine House is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It is open Wednesdays, 4-10 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 3-11p.m.; and Sundays 2-7 p.m.

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