Welcome to the first installment of the Currituck Small Business Spotlight, presented by Currituck County Economic Development. Kicking things off is John Wright, General Manager of Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg.
How long has Sanctuary Vineyards been in business?
17 years as a vineyard, 9 years as a winery.
Can you describe what you do?
We grow 30 acres of vinifera grapes on sandy soils at our farm in Currituck. The grapes are processed here in Jarvisburg and we offer the wines for sale to locals and visitors at our winery tasting room. We also offer an event space for weddings and private events, and we believe that farming and serving our community and visitors is the most sustainable path we can take to make sure that this family business thrives.
Have you always lived in Currituck or did you relocate here?
I've always lived in Currituck with the exception of a few years in college.
Why did you start your own business?
We decided to convert some of the farmland to grapes in 2001. It was a decision made as a family, but prompted by a visit my father and uncle had made to Knotts Island, where the first European grapes were planted in Currituck in the 1980's.
What's the best part about owning and operating a business in Currituck County?
Currituck has a wealth of sustainable natural resources (in our case - great soil, warm weather, ample sunshine and wind) and is situated close to major markets. This allows us to harvest a local crop and make a product that can be enjoyed by both locals and visitors. We depend on tourism to drive the business model during the peak season, but Currituck is beautiful in the off-season as well, when we have more free time to enjoy nature with our family.
What's the hardest part about owning and operating a business in Currituck County?
I'd prefer not to dwell on anything negative. However, I will say that the variability of the tourism trade can make forecasting as a business difficult. Rough weather and rough economic conditions can occur at anytime so we have to be prepared.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a business in Currituck County?
Talk to locals and find out what they'd like to see - engage the community since you'll be working with them daily. Develop a business plan that accounts for the seasonal nature of business in Currituck.
What's one thing you wish you could change about your business?
I wish the perception of NC wines could improve more rapidly. Every time we meet a new customer, we often spend half of the time educating them on wine, and the other half working to correct any misconceptions they may have (NC wines are always sweet, dry wines can't be grown in coastal NC, etc.).
What do you want people to know about you and your business?
We've taken a chance by planting grapes in our coastal climate, and we've invested in making sure we produce the best wines we can make. We don't want to look back and wonder if we ever gave less than the absolute best effort possible. With that in mind, we just ask the visitor to take a chance and try them!
Are you a small business located in Currituck County, NC?
Do you want to be considered for an upcoming Small Business Spotlight?