by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – After a favorable response from the select board to an economic development loan request, Myles and Katie Tandy plan to open Birdsong Beer and Wine, hopefully by June 1. The new business would be in the Gohl Block adjacent Front Seat Coffee and provide wider options for craft beer and wine than presently exist in Hardwick.
Myles Tandy stressed that the business plans to complement rather than compete with current local options, which he described as having a limited selection.
He said, “We have looked at most of the stores in the area within the last few months. We’re trying really hard to not step on too many toes also. Most things in the area are only stocking bigger markets, still craft beers, but bigger market brands, Magic Hat, things like that. We want to really go out of our way to highlight the really small guys in town, especially the newer places, Weird Window [Brewing] comes to mind, places that have popped up during the pandemic that aren’t getting enough shelf space yet.”
Tandy added that the selection would not strictly be limited to pricey items. “We’re still going to have a little bit of everything. We’re not going to exclude people who only want more traditional yellow beer. We’re just going to be selective about what we choose to stock in that ballpark.”
Katie Tandy will be the one in charge of selecting what the store stocks and described the inventory planned as including “a smattering of other stuff from New England, and then other interesting things from beyond, as well.” At the outset, the two envision the offerings as “maybe a few hundred SKUs [Stock-Keeping Units] of beer and wine and mead and cider,” according to Myles Tandy. “it’s based on what sells right off the gate and we’re going to be asking for feedback from the community and the customers.”
He said of opening during a pandemic, “the challenges are fairly self-evident in that it’s just hard to have people in a small space and start working on a project when the world is uncertain. But the flip side of that is everyone’s scared and loan prices are through the floor. The interest rate is great right now, which gives us the opportunity to try and do this.”
Beyond the evolving stock of beer and wine, he said “once the world goes back to some semblance of normalcy” Birdsong plans on offering classes and tastings.
“Once we’re allowed to have people in person again, we plan to have free tastings, and then hopefully eventually fermentables-related classes. Kombucha, maybe some home brewing of ciders, and meads, and beers, some cheese-making stuff. Nothing crazy complicated, but we’re the town that food saved so they tell us, and we want to just keep in that vein, really continue giving back to the agricultural community around us and trying to get people more used to the idea of eating and drinking local to home. Decentralized agriculture’s going to save us all.”
He added, “Especially coming into hopefully warm weather and being allowed to be outside with your friends again, it’s liter bottle of Austrian wine weather.”
The two said that the pandemic partly propelled them into this direction, with Myles saying “our employment changed, our outlook on life changed and it gave us an opening to work on something new.”
Katie Tandy said, “And it feels like we’re living in a whole different universe now.”
The couple brings a combined 27 years of experience in the beer and wine industry. Previously they managed a “high-end shop” in Cambridge, Mass., and Myles Tandy was a manager for three years at the von Trapp Brewery in Stowe.
A major part of their plan involves offering educated beer and wine advice currently lacking in town to consumers. Myles Tandy said he had “a culinary degree from the Cordon Bleu with wine education, plus a Wine and Spirits Educational Trust certification, plus the bottom level Cicerone certification.”
He said “We felt immediately welcomed by Hardwick and going through the process of telling people about this and working with the select board has been really welcoming. Everyone’s really excited and everyone is pulling for us and it makes it a lot easier to go through this process and be a lot less scared about what we’re doing.”