Black-owned urban winery JW’s Wine Cellar first started in a family’s kitchen as gifts to give at graduations and birthday parties turned into a successful business.
The basis for the Trotwood winery started when the shop owner, Jake Wells, was a child. His grandmother, Georgia Demmings, had a grew grapes in her backyard and made wine to sell out of necessity to make money. His grandmother would send him to find empty bottles around their Crown Point neighborhood to take home to bottle the wine.
“My grandmother was a hustler. She was always trying to figure out a way to make money just to survive in those days,” he said.
Prior to starting their business, he and his wife Linda Wells would buy different flavors of fruit juice concentrate and make wine at home to gift to friends and family during holidays, graduations, and other celebrations as a hobby. Jake and Linda received overwhelming support and soon people offered to pay them to make them wine.
“My wife said this is too expensive to be giving it away all the time. So we did a little research to find out what it takes to get our license and to make it legally,” Jake said.
In 2014, the Wells family set up their first location in Shiloh Springs where they made wine by request after Linda suggested that it was time to get a dedicated space for the business. Two years later they moved to their current location at 724 East Main St. in Trotwood where they make and sell a variety of sweet to dry wines of various flavors.
The wine cellar has about 25 different wines priced between $9 to $12 mostly named after their family members. Their most popular wines are a semi-sweet white wine made from Niagara grapes called Sweet Georgia to honor Jake’s grandmother and a semi-sweet black currant red wine called Beana Jean after his sister.
Linda said that they are a small business with a small budget which makes advertising difficult but through word of mouth from supportive customers and positive reviews on social media, they have been able to stay afloat. “I also think that, in terms of community, people genuinely want to support Black businesses and want to see Black businesses thrive.”
Prior to the pandemic they would let other businesses host pop up shops, vendor fairs, and leave business cards at their winery. “We try to be supportive of other Black businesses in particular small businesses and other entrepreneurs,” Linda said.
Jake said it’s important to help other businesses especially Black owned businesses as sometimes people are “selfish” with resources and knowledge. “I try to mentor everybody that has asked for advice because there is enough money for everybody to advance and do good,” he said.
Black History Month
The Dayton Daily News is featuring Black-owned businesses as part of Black History Month in February, telling the stories of their successes and obstacles they face.
About the Author