The Asian American Small Business Shopping Guide

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Friends of the Vine

"There are no strangers here, only friends you haven't met."

In the spirit of continuing to uplift our community businesses, I’m excited to share the story of one of my favorite places to hang out in the South Bay: Friends of the Vine located at 221 Avenida Del Norte, Redondo Beach, CA 90277.

Friends of the Vine offers wine tastings and bottles for purchase. If you are a 21+ year-old wine lover and haven’t heard of Friends of the Vine by now, you’ve been missing out. For those who have heard of Friends of the Vine, I hope that this article shines a new light on all of the love and effort that has gone into this boutique wine bar and shop.

Owners Tracy and Fred Eguchi in front of Friends of the Vine

The Origin Story 

Friends of the Vine opened their doors on October 6, 2001. After graduating from UCLA, Tracy Eguchi began bartending at a popular restaurant/bar in the South Bay so she could become more knowledgeable about the restaurant industry. While bartending, she acquired experience-based knowledge and had conversations with customers and representatives who were familiar with the industry. 

The customers who intrigued her the most were those who loved wine. She noticed that the people who loved wine were always very passionate about their wines, and those were the types of people she loved to be around. The customers and winery representatives were always friendly to her, and she loved the atmosphere she was surrounded by, and so the idea of owning a wine bar became her business plan. 

Once the business proposal for Enoteka al Fresco, the original name for Friends of the Vine, was written, the true hurdles began to come her way. Meeting after meeting, phone call after phone call, she was faced with disappointment and discouragement from contractors and city entities.

As a wine bar and shop is a unique concept in the Los Angeles area, Tracy had to briefly explain to city entities and property owners the concept of her business.  While some understood and immediately supported her business concept, many doubted the sustainability of the business as there had not been a wine bar and shop previously opened anywhere in Southern California, nor did Tracy have previous experience with opening businesses. 

Once Tracy had found a location to open Friends of the Vine, permits had been submitted and approved, and construction had been complete, it was finally time to open her doors. On the day of the grand opening, Tracy recalled telling herself, "if all else fails, at least I know that I was able to open and that in itself is something I should be proud to say."

A portion of FOTV's endless selection

Friends of the Vine (FOTV) – Grand Opening to Today 

When FOTV first opened, business was a bit slow as their main source of advertisement was through local newspapers, and on occasion, people would stop in if they were walking through the Village. As more customers started to come in, word of mouth drew a more expansive crowd. Tracy indicated that fortunately, good people kept bringing in good people, and that has helped create the fun and welcoming environment it is today. 

Fortunately, COVID-19 protocols for outdoor dining have allowed FOTV to expand to the alfresco seating that Tracy had always envisioned. The fenced-in al fresco seating allows for both social distancing and social gatherings. 

Alfresco seating

Tracy and Fred credit the success of their business to the good people who have supported them throughout the years. Even through the 2008 recession and COVID-19 pandemic, their regulars were determined to assure the security of FOTV and continued to show their support in every way possible. 

Basketball “Family” Get-Together; July 2021

I credit their success to the good nature of Tracy and Fred. Though I may be biased towards them, as they have been long-time friends of my parents, their kindness and inclusivity towards others have created a very warm and welcoming environment for all. Whether it is someone’s first or 50th time visiting FOTV. all are welcomed with a warm smile and pleasant conversation. They truly uphold their slogan: “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met.”

So, if you are over the age of 21 and know someone who is interested/passionate about wine, be sure to check out Friends of the Vine. 

BONUS

Navigating the World of Business as a Japanese American Woman (Tips from Tracy, in no particular order): 

1. Write down every conversation you have with people who you are doing business with. Sometimes, people who you are doing business with can mislead you and say what you want to hear in the moment, but do not always uphold their end of the agreement. If you have in writing what they agreed to, and when they agreed to it, then you can keep others responsible. 

2. Know how to ask the right questions. Just because someone denies a portion of your plans, that does not mean that your goals and dreams have to also end with that no. By asking the right questions, sometimes you can be led to the solution to the issue. 

3. Always show respect towards others, especially those who you work closely with. When you show others respect, open communication tends to be a lot easier, and it often becomes easier for that person to work with you to achieve your goals. 

Article featured in this issue:
April 2022
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