Husband and wife team Mark Henry and Gretchen Skedsvold moved from New York to Minneapolis and, when they did, they noticed a difference in wine availability from their familiar haunts like D.O.C., Chamber Street Wines, Astor Wines and Uva.
“We didn’t long for much,” said Skedsvold of their relocation. “It has all of the amenities without the competition and stress.”
The young couple bought a home in Bryn Mawr and started thinking about their next step: to own a neighborhood wine shop, one to showcase their love of the beverage while advancing their small scale and sustainability-focused philosophy.
“I was walking the dog one day and there was an old dry cleaner with a for rent sign,” Henry remembered when they scouted their first potential location. “I ran home with the dog,” he said, only to later find that it wasn’t zoned accordingly. This led them to Glenwood Avenue, where they’ve now opened Henry & Son next to iSpace and across the street from the International Market Square.
Henry & Son is bigger than they’d first planned, but it’s been a dream come true. “It’s very urban. What we’re going for is something that could be in Minneapolis or New York or Paris,” Skedsvold said.
The industrial brick and high ceilings in 811 Glenwood Avenue remind them of their first shared apartment back in New York, with an art studio vibe that makes the successful jump into a retail atmosphere.
Henry & Son’s inventory is built on Skedsvold’s knowledge from personal interest, global travel, and frequent purchases in New York. Her history with sustainability goes back further. Born and raised in North Dakota, her parents practiced organic agriculture and were among the first in her rural area to convert from beef cattle to bison. Most of the wines carried at Henry & Son carry a similar concept, produced by small scale family-owned vineyards, not necessarily organic, but aimed toward natural ingredients and green business practices.
Since first settling in Minneapolis they’ve found more of their favorites at other stores, noting that they’ve frequented Zipp’s and France 44, but their store collects the odds and ends they previously had to skip across town to find.
“We consolidate a lot of them,” Skedsvold said. “We have what I would buy if I were to go to those stores, plus a few others.” The idea is to offer a variety of less available brands sharing that sustainable focus.
It’s a niche, but distributors have welcomed the concept, excited to have a store that wants to sell small run wines that are harder to market in the larger stores who are more concerned about high volume sales. It’s a store run by enthusiasts who enjoy their craft, and they embrace the ideals without pretention.
“We see it as half retail, half learning institution,” said Henry, and the store offers tastings on Thursdays and Fridays to help familiarize customers. While their staff is knowledgeable, they also make a point to minimize intimidation.
“There’s a lot of wine shops that look down at people if they ask for a wine,” he said. “I think people feel that when they come in.”
Given their emphasis on small-scale operations, they won’t have everything a customer is used to, but they work to reach across that barrier.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how receptive people are to different stuff,” Skedsvold added. “People seem to have fun, get more excited in here.”
Another key element, and one they couldn’t have achieved had they opened in a smaller space, is their organization. It’s open, well lit, and welcoming. There are tables in the center for discussion and samples, and the wines line the walls in neatly arranged columns and rows instead of geography. Vertical columns equate to region while the horizontal rows reflect the fullness of the grape, making side-by-side comparisons easy without crossing the store to assess wines from South America and Australia.
Since their grand opening on Oct. 29, Henry & Son has connected with their neighborhood while increasing their inventory. Besides wine, the store sells Minnesota-made beers and they’ve connected with nearby Sisyphus Brewing to sell 750 ml cans, or crowlers, of the nanobrewery’s beers—the only store to do so.
With two additional coolers on order, Henry plans to increase beer selection and they are growing their spirit selection as well.
While the building may be a larger investment than initially planned, it’s united their passion with the community.
“Sisyphus Brewing [is] an example of the kind of producers that we want to make other people aware of — local and small scale with an honest face-to-face connection,” Henry said.
At a glance: Henry & Son
About: Specializes in craft wine and spirits.
Where: 811 Glenwood Ave.