Now that Christmas and New Year’s Eve are behind them, Bryan and Sarah Carver are working to catch their collective breath and refocus their attention on the second side of Twin Forks Wine + Provisions.
The Carvers have been building their success for the past four years at 408 Hemphill St. in Hattiesburg. The wine store has been doing well for the pair, but the “Provisions” – cheese and special food items – is moving slowly, but steadily.
Now the work begins again on the facilities.
“After the holidays, we are going to get caught back up and move forward with that store,” Sarah said. “It’s been keeping us busy with cheese plates. This month (in December), the calendar is full. We’re glad that we don’t have more orders than we do because we wouldn’t be able to keep up with it.”
Holidays and snow days kept the Carvers working hard before Christmas.
“We had a ridiculous number of cheese bites and gift baskets going out the week before Christmas,” Sarah said. “Snow and holiday events kind of ramped it up pretty early.”
The calendar also worked against them, Bryan said.
“Christmas Eve is one of our busiest times of the year, but we will miss out on it because it’s on Sunday,” he said.
With all of the work involved in supplying and preparing the cheese baskets, Sarah said the cupboards were a little bare.
“Thankfully, we’ve got a large shipment coming in today,” she said. “There are usually 25-30 different cheeses. There are things that we have found that are able to be shipped to us that I have never seen anywhere in South Mississippi. It’s exciting for us. We have some professors who are well-traveled who will stop and say, ‘Oh my, we have seen those in Spain.’ So it kind of hits home for them and they reminisce about their times abroad. Those are special.”
Bryan said the special knowledge about food and drink spills over to the wine store.
“It’s a great time of year,” he said. “People are thinking more about wines during this time of year, as gifts, Christmas parties and things like that. We have a great customer base downtown and a lot of regulars. If there’s something they enjoy or want us to carry, we absolutely stock it regularly for them; it’s no problem at all. There’s a lot of our customers that will turn us on to wines. They’ll say, ‘Hey, have you ever had so-and-so pinot noir?’ We’ll get some in and most of the time we’ll really enjoy it. It’s good to learn from your customers as well.”
Work on the side opposite of the wine store includes getting an oven for the kitchen to expand.
“It’s a totally separate business,” Bryan said. “This is the wine side, and over there we do the cheese and the cheese plates. Once we get a couple of more pieces of equipment, we’ll be able to make cheese plates a lot faster and better meats when we expand our inventory.”
The past six months has shown the Carvers that the wine and cheese market can be fruitful.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the past six months here (in the Provisions) and over there (in the wine shop),” Susan said. “The cheese shop is a natural extension. People who come for the cheese typically buy their wine elsewhere. But now that they are down here, they will go here for their wine. We’ve been very happy with the response.”
Sarah said she likes to prompt their customers to think of wine as an every day drink.
“We like to have a glass of wine with dinner every night, so we want to encourage that with our customers,” she said.
And don’t expect the Carvers to sell only the snooty stuff.
“We really try to find good values,” Bryan said. “We have all sorts of price points really. We feel that you can get a great bottle of wine with $10 or $15 or maybe $20 price range. You can spend $50 or $60 a bottle, but a $15 bottle is just as good or just as much fun.”
For the Carvers, who opened the business four years ago, they wouldn’t have opened it anywhere else in Hattiesburg.
“We wanted to be downtown and we wanted parking,” Bryan said. “It had everything we wanted and it was available for purchase. It’s not far off the beaten path, but once you find it, it’s not far away. We are five minutes from some large neighborhoods, so we are convenient for a lot of people.”
For the Carvers, the growth that Downtown Hattiesburg has been experiencing has been exciting.
“We live downtown, she grew up downtown and all the businesses seem to doing fairly well,” Bryan said. “There are a lot of younger folks moving into places downtown. They want to be somewhere that they can walk to have a beer, glass of wine or go to the bank. We’re excited about the growth downtown. We’ve gotten to know a lot of the other business owners and everybody works well together.”
“We could not have opened this anywhere but downtown,” Sarah said.