Whenever patrons visit J Rae’s Wines on Broadway in Seaside, there is a good chance they will catch a glimpse of the retail wine shop’s 3-year-old namesake prancing about the store, playing games or keeping her baby brother entertained as if she was right at home.
That’s because the owners of the store – and parents of the friendly Jayden Rae – always have been about putting family first and cultivating a business to match.
When Colin Woody, 30, and his wife Julie, 24, found themselves at a crossroads a little more than two years ago, they decided to plan their next step around a few significant components: protecting family time, working hard and doing what they love.
The outcome was the creation of a small family-owned and operated wine shop downtown, where locals and tourists alike can purchase bottles of wine and accessories from the store’s inventory of local products.
“No matter how stressful it is, it can be 100 percent rewarding, as well,” Colin said about the business the couple created together in a place they love.
Julie’s connection to Seaside runs a bit deeper than Colin’s. Throughout her childhood, her time was shared between Seaside and Portland. She also is the great-granddaughter of Bob and Marianne Poole, the founders of the Seaside Pig ‘N’ Pancake restaurant, which turned into a regional chain. Working in the restaurant was her first official job.
Although a native of Montana, Colin’s attachment to the area is just as strong as his wife’s. In 2006, he ventured out west, passed through Portland and made his way to the north coast of Oregon, where he stopped when he felt the sea breeze.
Colin has considerable restaurant experience with 15 years in the industry, including a stint as the assistant manager of the Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge in Cannon Beach. He works at Castaways in Cannon Beach in addition to co-owning J Rae’s.
The couple was married in May 2010. After Jayden Rae was born in 2011, she became the couple’s source of inspiration, both for starting a family business and also for giving it a name.
“The name was the first concrete thing we decided on, and we just built off of that,” Julie said.
Spending ample time with Jayden instead of sending her to daycare was the couple’s goal. “The question was, ‘What can we do? What can we build?’” Julie said.
“We were looking for something we could do as a family,” Colin said.
They also wanted to create a store with an aspect “that we could add to the coast that was missing,” he said.
Although there is good wine country in both Oregon and Washington, it’s not easily accessible from coastal tourist destinations like Seaside. So Julie and Colin decided to bring wine country to the coast by selling products from Northwest family-owned wineries to highlight the importance of small, family businesses.
The store shelves are stocked with about 30 varieties of wines and more than 100 labels.
Julie said Colin handles “a lot of, for lack of a better word, ‘brain work’” for the business, because of the schooling and real-world experience in the industry that he’s compiled.
“I’m doing a lot of learning,” she added.
However, they try to equally balance the responsibilities of owning and running their own business, which they still consider relatively new.
J Rae’s Wines is their first experience with being business owners. They describe it as “more responsibility,” “stressful,” “intimidating” and “time-consuming.”
“It’s 100 percent different than working under somebody,” Julie said. “You’re doing everything from stocking, to pricing, to cleaning. … Everything you do, it becomes your heart and soul.”
But they have devoted their hearts and souls to the business, they said.
Throughout the process of launching the wine shop and sustaining it through its fragile first few years, the family has relied on community support more than anything.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do, outside of the relationship-building,” Colin said.
To be competitive with chain stores and supermarkets, Julie and Colin focus on providing a laid back, inviting atmosphere that caters to a variety of clients and their families. They also try to keep their stock mostly distinct from the labels to be found in large chain stores, with a heavier focus on local products. Customers always are welcome to sample a few different varieties during a complimentary tasting of preselected wines.
The experience of operating their own business has taught them that nothing is ever certain and there always is more to learn.
They plan to eventually add another dimension to the store, which will be named in tribute to their son, 7-month-old Jacson. To complement the “J Rae’s” aspect of the store – the wines, they hope to add meats, cheeses and other snacks packed in picnic baskets to serve as the “Jaco’s” component of the shop.
The couple still is planning the new stage, Colin said, and there is no specific date for the small product expansion.
J Rae’s Wines is open six days a week and by appointment and is closed on Mondays. For more information, call (503) 791-1571 or visit the company’s Facebook page or website at jraeswines.com/