Hi, I'm Dana.
I fell in love with wine a long time ago (it's been about 15 years, to be exact), and I've spent most of my career working in restaurants. I've been a cook, a pastry chef, a busser, a server, a general manager, a wine director and sommelier. I've also washed a lot of dishes and scrubbed some toilets, opened four restaurants from the ground up, birthed a child, and co-authored a book. I like to do many things, often at once, for fear that life might be otherwise boring.
My path to wine came in an unconventional way, as it does for many people in this business. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania, cooking my way through almost 4 years of root-vegetable winters and picnic-filled summers. I learned to make cabbage rolls with my neighbor, to drink plum brandy with my friends, and to feast like it was my job. The experience of shopping and cooking with the seasons changed how I felt about food and upon returning to the States, I did the most sensible thing I could: I went to work at a restaurant. A couple of years in a professional kitchen gave me the skills of discipline and stamina, but left me wanting the guest interaction that only comes from beyond the kitchen doors. I hopped to the front-of-house and never looked back.
Fast forward to today, and I've had the good fortune of working with some incredible mentors around Oregon, predominantly in Portland where I live. I'm honored to have been featured in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Wine Enthusiast, Imbibe, and on Sprudge Wine, PUNCH, and Eater. Most recently I've been running Natty by Nature, my super-fun, not-so-serious pop-up bar dedicated to natural wine and golden era hip-hop. And now, after years of helping manage teams of employees, writing wine lists, and running restaurants, I'm ready to open my own little place, and it's called Bar Norman.
While Portland has been one of the epicenters of great food, and a mere 30 minutes drive from the Willamette Valley wine country, our love affair has long been with craft beer and cocktails. Paris, London, New York, LA: all amazing places to hang out in a wine bar. But our beloved Portland has been slow on the uptake until recently. For many, 'wine bar' has conjured up visions of over-stuffed furniture, soft jazz, and clinking glasses of pinot grigio. But times have changed. Bar Norman will be a casual affair. It'll be fun and loud and upbeat, like a bar, but with wine. It'll be a place to stop in for a glass on your way to dinner, or on your way home from dinner. You'll be able to drink and eat, drink and talk, drink and party, stay for an hour, or stay all night.
We'll serve natural wine, the slightly controversial beverage made from grapes, and not much else. We won't adhere to any dogma, but we'll support growers who don't spray chemicals in their vineyards and farm organically and/or biodynamically. We'll celebrate winemakers who allow their juice to ferment naturally, without the use of commercial yeasts, and who don't add anything to their wine except a little sulfur. Bar Norman will sit at the crossroads of the cool young guns in the natural wine world, and the old guys who have been making natural wine since before anyone talked about what natural was. Most importantly, you'll be able to drink real wine that tastes good.
Bar Norman will be a bar, with lots of other things, too. While showing up and drinking wine is great, you'll also be able to take bottles to go, sit in on a class, and attend community events with visiting winemakers, authors, and other wine personalities. We'll be establishing a mentorship program for people who are interested in the hospitality business, creating avenues for new jobs in wine. We're committed to building a positive, happy work place, where people will be paid fairly and will have the opportunity to learn and grow within the business.
Funds from this Kickstarter campaign will go towards necessary equipment for the bar, such as a proper heating and air conditioning system, wine coolers, and a hot water heater.
What's in a name? Norman Rogers was my grandfather, one of the greatest influences in my life, and the namesake of the bar. He didn't get me into wine. We never had long discussions about the merits of old Bordeaux. In fact, he drank rather unexciting wine, a glass or two every night with dinner. But, he taught me a whole lot about perseverance, generosity, kindness, and how to play Monopoly (I was a terrible student). Bar Norman is the most personal project I've worked on, and it only seemed fitting to name it for him.
It has always been my goal to create Bar Norman with the help of the Kickstarter community, so that it feels like a place that belongs to many people. I believe in doing the work it takes to make lofty visions a reality, and in this instance, part of the work is reaching out to you, asking for your support. I would be overjoyed and beyond grateful for your contribution to this bar, this dream of mine for more years than I can count. Won't you help me bring delicious natural wine and unique community programming to southeast Portland?
Video: Chris Corbin, @corbinbrands
Find us here: www.barnorman.com and @barnormanpdx on Instagram
Risks and challenges
Opening a bar has its inherent risks: namely, we're building it, will they come?
But we've tried to be very smart about how we're taking on Bar Norman. We looked high and low for an old space full of character, in a residential neighborhood surrounded by shops, restaurants, and cafés, and ended up in what can only be described as the perfect spot for a wine bar. It's small so we can manage our overhead, and doesn't require a massive build-out. We've passed our build-out inspections and are on schedule to open by mid-July 2018.
Luckily, there's a whole lot of wine in the world, so we don't need to worry about supply running short.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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