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Nestled in the crossroads of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, KC Wineworks is not your typical winery.

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

KC Wineworks

The busiest place in most cities is downtown, where, according to Petula Clark, everything’s waiting for you. In Kansas City, the downtown area features the standard skyscrapers, museums, and dining hot spots, but it also uniquely includes a winery: KC Wineworks.

The grapes used in the bottles from KC Wineworks aren’t actually grown downtown, but they are 100% grown in Missouri, which was one of the first places in the United States to earn American Viticultural Area (AVA) status which designates it an official grape-growing region. When it comes to entertaining visitors downtown, KC Wineworks has taken full advantage of its location and the interesting history and architecture that comes with vintage buildings.

Owner Lindsay Clausen said, “Our building is originally known as the Kelly Springfield Automotive Truck Building. It was completed in 1912. It has a very old industrial vibe. And I love that because when you think of an urban space, like, yes, we want some refined things, but we also kind of like that grit and that history.” 

That grit and history helps KC Wineworks stand out in the crowded area of downtown known as Brewer’s Alley. They’ve got competition for customers in the area, especially when big events are in town, but for customers like Yelp reviewer Kristina, that location stood out from the crowd, which she mentioned in her review. 

“When I think of a winery, I do not think of downtown. I think of a drive somewhere away from the city. However, KC Wineworks does not fit that description because it is an urban winery located in the crossroads of downtown Kansas City,” she said. “Tastings are done at the bar, but for anything else, you can stand up at the bar, sit at a table, or lounge in a chair. It was an open place with plenty of natural lighting and cool artwork, making it a perfect place to relax and sip some wine. It was a fun and welcoming environment, so do not be intimidated if you have zero knowledge about wine because the staff is more than happy to talk about the wine.” 

In addition to building a welcoming space, Lindsay and her husband have built a welcoming staff to support them. They really wanted to lower the intimidation factor that can sometimes surround wine tastings. 

“We want to be approachable. If you know nothing about wine and you want to keep it that way, you're just there to drink the alcohol, have a wine slushie, hang out, we can meet you at that level,” Lindsay said. “So when people come in, we don't just automatically say, ‘Where are you in your wine experience?’ We're like, ‘Hey, how's it going? What have you guys been doing? What brought you in today?’ I want people to feel comfortable no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter what they look like, what they feel like. I just want them to feel welcome.” 

That hospitality—which Lindsay learned while working at the Marriott Hotel chain—is what transforms casual visitors into lifelong customers. She firmly believes in making customers happy, and that means she takes reviews very seriously and sometimes personally, especially the negative ones.

“There's no sugarcoating it. At the end of the day, it just sucks. I know [customers are] trying to give us feedback. I don't know that a 1-star Yelp review is the best way to give that feedback, but if that's the way that they feel they can communicate with us, then that's just what we have to do. You want to share your passion with these people; I want you to have a 5-star experience.”

Lindsay insists that another way she builds a successful business is by growing and maintaining her presence online. Owning your online presence, including your Yelp Business Page, allows you to influence your brand’s perception and business’ reputation: “That is the one place that we can control our narrative,” she said.

Building a successful small business means aligning your biggest dreams with your business goals, which Lindsay does by using these methods: 

  • Stay active online. Use each platform to your advantage, and market your business uniquely to those individual audiences.
  • Hospitality matters. Understanding simple tenets of hospitality can make a big impact on garnering repeat customers. 
  • Location, location, location. Use your business’ location and unique physical elements to create a welcoming environment for customers.
  • Negative reviews sting, but they aren’t personal attacks. Use the feedback to guide improvements for your business.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Lindsay and Kristina, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.