Doing what we love.
When it comes to a career, it’s something many of us dream about but far fewer experience. Ashley Higginbottom is one of the lucky few.
Luckily for Cedar Rapids, she’s found a home for her dream in The MedQuarter Regional Medical District. Ashley’s business, Kariden Wine Company on 1st Avenue SE, is a haven for those who appreciate and enjoy the ancient delights of beverages made by fermenting grapes.
What you won’t find among the many varietals and blends at Kariden is even the faintest whiff of wine snobbery. Ashley’s mantra is “learn and have fun.”
“It’s more fun when it’s not too serious,” she says.
Ashley’s journey to wine shop owner didn’t necessarily begin with the end in mind. It began with sips from her aunt’s wine glass. Later, she started attending wine events and tastings in and around her hometown of Flint, Michigan.
“I love the production and process involved in winemaking,” she says. “I even started making my own wines but realized that wasn’t for me.”
She continued with her self-taught wine education, however, talking with growers and other experts around the United States, learning all she could about wine regions, varietals, and terroir. She investigated other ways to make a living with wine, including being a distributor, but nothing really popped.
At some point she realized that her experience as a retail supervisor paired naturally with owning a wine shop. She recently moved back to Cedar Rapids, eventually finding herself a great location in the MedQuarter and opened for business in June.
The company name was derived by combining the names of her beloved children, Kari and Kaden.
Unlike larger retailers that happen to sell wine, Kariden’s wines are carefully selected by Ashley based on her own and her customers’ tastes. Initially she researched local preferences, which tended toward sweeter wines, except for older folks who love their dry reds. Ashley carries a balanced variety of reds, whites, sparkling wine, champagne and more.
When customers ask her, she’ll track down and order wines she doesn’t have in inventory, in the process learning about a new wine and often adding it to her offerings.
“I work hard to get wines my customers want,” she explains.
Sharing wine. Talking about wine. Enjoying wine’s many pleasures includes spending time in the company of others who also love wine. Ashley’s long-term goal is to open a wine lounge complete with a small performance stage and finger food. “I want to create both a place to gather and a platform for spoken word and musical artists,” she says.
The MedQuarter turns out to have many advantages for a business like Kariden Wines. Not only is there a steady stream of medical professionals, patients and their loved ones, but Coe College is right across the street. “Their faculty and alumni are some of my best customers,” she relates.
And what advice does she offer for others who might open a business in the MedQuarter?
“Learn your target audience,” says Ashley. “Learn the area. Bringing something new to the community will allow your business to flourish.”
Ashley brought her dream to the MedQuarter, and it’s flourishing.
Kariden Wine Company
1239 1st Ave SE Ste 1, Cedar Rapids