WineStyles Owner Turns Her Passion into Her Dream Job
Charlene Pontrelli shares her love of wine with her customers to help them find the perfect bottle.
Charlene Pontrelli is the owner of WineStyles at Seven Bridges. She and her husband opened the retail wine shop six years ago. They serve customers from Woodridge and the surrounding suburbs and Chicago.
They live in Woodridge with their two sons.
Q: How long have you lived in Woodridge and what brought you here?
A: My husband and I used to live in downtown Chicago. We’ve been here since ’99. We moved out here because we wanted to have a place where we could raise a family.
Q: What do you like about living in the village?
A: You know what I like about it? I think that for the most part everybody is very nice. It’s a nice group of down-to-earth people. There’s a good mix too. So it’s nice diversity.
Q: What improvements would you like to see in Woodridge?
A: One of the things that I think Woodridge is missing is a downtown area. Like downtown Naperville or downtown Downers Grove. I think that it makes it officially like a cute small town. I would love to see something like that.
Q: Are you involved in any clubs, groups or activities in Woodridge?
A: Since we’ve been here, I would say we’re involved a lot with our kids’ programs. My husband and I both coach our boys’ baseball team. We have the business here so I’m involved with the Chamber (of Commerce). We spend a lot of our time volunteering for the school and sports and stuff like that.
Q: Why did you start your own business?
A: I used to work downtown as a trader. I used to spend 50-60 hours a week away from the house. After we had our second child, it was always our dream to have a small retail shop, my husband and I. We figured for as hard as I was working away from the house, why don’t we put all that effort into our own business? So we just tried to find something that we were both passionate about. And we’re both passionate about wine. So we decided to go with the wine shop. We decided to go with WineStyles (a franchise) because ... we needed a place essentially to get our training wheels because we didn’t really know anything about retail. But wine is our passion. Wine has always been our passion. We took our honeymoon in Italy and I think that’s where I had my wine epiphany. I was sitting in Tuscany and said "I love wine."
Q: How’s business been going?
A: Business has been going well. We have a lot of really great customers and we’ve actually developed a lot of nice friendships as well. We like to try to tell everyone that our name goes on every bottle that goes out. So it means a lot to us that we try and find the perfect bottle for the customer. We always say we like to create relationships, not transactions. We want everyone to realize that this is your neighborhood wine shop.
Before we had the store, we used to buy wine, obviously, so we used to always go to stores, and it could be very overwhelming. You walk into a store and you’re like , "I don’t know any of these wines." What we try to do, though, is we try to give you personal service but we also offer complimentary wine-tastings every Thursday. I think that people are just so much more comfortable when they can try a wine, and they’re comfortable giving it as a gift. They’re comfortable drinking it.
Q: Was it a conscious decision to open the store in Woodridge?
A: It was a conscious decision to open it in Woodridge because we lived in Woodridge. I love being part of the community, so I thought how nice would it be if I could work and live in the same community? It allows us to do a lot of things as part of the community of Woodridge.
Q: What wines are hot right now?
A: We’re in a little bit of a transition period right now. I would say right now, people are starting to eat outside a little bit more, barbequing a little bit more, I think we’re going to move into the red blends. Some Pinot Noirs are always good for a little bit lighter weather because it’s a little bit lighter wine; more food-versatile too. And then we’re going to see it pick up with some whites soon. Cooler weather, people are looking for more hearty reds, warmer weather we go into the whites.