When Gretchen Gonyer first opened Crushed Grape in 1987 off Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo, the store was 4,000 square feet. She also operated a 1,000-square-foot deli and a 3,000-square-foot Dairy Queen.
But after the mall was torn down in 1999, she said, she decided to sell the DQ franchise and combine her two other businesses into one, 900-square-foot location.
Now Gonyer is expanding: By Nov. 5 she expects to open two stores nearby — one called Little Grape at 491 Madonna Road across from Bed Bath & Beyond where she will sell more than 300 food items and wine from San Luis Obispo County, and a holiday shop next door where she will sell miscellaneous picnic and gift baskets — some pre-made, others to order.
The Crushed Grape, at 319 Madonna Road, will eventually become just a deli (though through year-end it will still sell gift baskets) — and a wine bar. Since they’ve begun to move merchandise out, there has been room to add tables and chairs.
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At the end of the holiday season, Gonyer will revert to just two stores: Little Grape and Crushed Grape.
“I’ve outgrown the space,’’ Gonyer said in explaining the expansion. “I have a wine and gifts store and a deli. I’m just separating them. It has actually worked out pretty well, but it is always a little too crowded in here.’’
Gonyer, who declined to disclose financial details of her business, said she is financially conservative and reinvests most of her profits into the business. She began the original Crushed Grape with $15,000 and has never had to take out a loan, she said. She recently obtained a second wine license.
Gonyer is considering buying a golf cart to make it easier to get back and forth to the stores and her warehouse, which is also nearby.
Asked her secret to staying in business 28 years, the owner replied: “It’s just hard work — and good customer service.’’ In addition, she said, a former business professor left her with some good advice that she’s always gone back to: to “find a need and fill it.” She’s relied on that advice to change her business through the years “when challenged by so many big stores.”