By Kerry Drager
Being a business in a small town can prove challenging. Flexibility and having the disposition to explore new business opportunities is often a must have for success in a rural community. Business owner and entrepreneur Jean Soine knows that keeping her doors open in her hometown of Paynesville means being open to trying new things.
Soine’s business ownership began in 1992. She had been working for a video rental store and wanted to open one of her own. She opened her store in a small rented space and was in operation there for three years. In 1995, a bigger building in town became available. She purchased the building and began Paynesville’s Total Entertainment Center. She is still offering video rentals today.
“There were two other stores in town. I just felt that I could do a better job at it, and now I’m the only one,” said Soine.
The Internet and the way people are watching movies have put a damper on the video rental industry. Cutting back on her hours and downsizing her stock has made it possible for her to remain in business.
To help offset the decline in video rentals, Soine also offers tux rentals, payday loans and tanning. However, the recent passage of a new law that restricts tanning to individuals over the age of 18 has further hurt this small business owner.
“I’ve been downsizing big time. I’m buying less and less. I’ve changed my hours and cut back on help. With the video rentals, it’s something every day. It’s a daily cash flow. Until I find something else that can bring in money every day, I keep it open, even if it’s really going down hill. In a year or so, I might not be doing it anymore.”
In 2012, Soine wanted to learn how to make wine at one of the local wineries. After being displeased with one of her wine making experiences, she gave it another try at Jana Mae’s in Brooten.
“That’s where I got the idea to make wine,” said Soine. “I had the space to make wine here, so I told my husband what we were going to do, and he started remodeling.”
The backside of the video store now is home to a quaint little winery. It is a place to gather with friends and family and enjoy a bottle of free wine while they make their own. Soine wanted to make the wine making experience as educational and fun as possible.
“Everything that is done is from kits. I teach them how to make it, and they are involved in every step of the process.”
There are four steps to making the kit wines, and the entire process takes six to eight weeks. There are many varieties of wine to choose from. Recycled wine bottles are sanitized and reused. She offers corks and labels for a small, additional price, but customers are free to bring in their own bottles free of charge.
The winery has been a success, with many repeat customers. It has been popular for a girl’s night out, date night with a significant other and for wedding gifts.
“It’s mostly for fun. I like wine so for me it was just a fun thing to do, and I can still make a little money doing it.”
Facing her challenges as a small business owner has kept Soine in business for 22 years. She has followed her interests and is not afraid to use the space she has to try something new. The winery supplies a place to inspire a growing interest and provides an opportunity to gather for laughter and memory making. Times might prove tough for this determined woman, but she simply raises her glass of Merlot and cheers to that.