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  • Courtney Jette


April, 2020

"Support, local, is great and all, but it's naive to think that our customers are going to be able to support us through this whole thing, when they're just as scared and worried as we are. You know, we're going to have to have support from the highest level coming down."

Owner, and only remaining employee, Amber

There's no way to know what's in store for you when you head to the Wanderlust Delicato. With an owner as fun, real, down-to-earth and edgy as the maps that her shop is structured around, the Wanderlust is literally a small piece of the world, all in one, with cheese and wine from around the globe. You want to see or have the world? Well, this shop can give it to you. The owner, Amber, is a straight shooter with not just a great shop on her shoulders, but a head, too. She even had a cheese plate waiting for me when I arrived! I got to try a small bite of the world. I ate the fanciest olives I've ever seen. But I didn't feel too casual and young, as her shop is the ultimate bridge between fantastic world class cheese and wine, and the non-stuffy wine crowd. If you're a certified wine snob, this place is perfect for you, but you can chuck the snob at the door. It was inclusive, and I could tell it's a good taste and good feelings shop. No judgement in here. (Which is good, cause I know nothing about wine.)

*Was the response to your shop good when you opened?

"Oh absolutely, people told me 'Oh my god Spokane needed this so bad, we just needed a chill place, we need a good cheese shop, we need cooking classes' people... " She pauses, obviously thinking about her customers. She silently nods, "The response has been Huge."

Well, I'm sure with such a unique spot, people will be back for that awesome space you've given them access too!

There's even a table for parents to let their kids play with toys while they go about wine and cheese shopping.

Tables and surfaces covered in maps from everywhere. It's like you're not just discovering new tastes, you discover so much more.

As you head toward the back of the space, you'll run into the huge 'teaching' kitchen Wanderlust boasts.

You thought they only sold good food? They can also teach you how to make your own, and then you can share a mealtime with all your new friends on the rooftop patio.

She comments about what the impact will be on her classes when this is all over.

"I don't think people will be so excited to cook with 12 strangers. Private parties, you know... cuz your cool with cooking with your friends during all of this, but complete strangers? I don't wanna cook with complete strangers right now." We laugh.

"I don' t want to ask my customers to do that, haha."

She can obviously laugh about a lot; something that can keep you going during such a

strange time. But she's also very on level with the situation, and you can tell her love of serving her customers is causing her to miss her shop's activity and scared for what's going on.

*Obviously you have a love for serving?

"Oh I love, I love food and beverage and the hospitality of it and the customer service of it. I couldn't imagine doing anyting else."

The weight of the moment just settles as we stand in silence in her dim delicato as I type my notes. I pause on my next question because I don't even care about it anymore. I feel like asking questions and chatting is the last thing I want to do with Amber right now. I just want to sit at her window table with wine, together, in silence.

Wanderlust sits empty waiting for Spokane streets to go back to normal

Out of all the owners I've visited, I know we're the most alike, and I wish we could be in a differnet scenario so we could just be laughing about all sorts of things.

*What is your favorite thing to offer to the community?

"I love helping people find a wine they've never heard of, or one they've never had.

I love the Northwest and I love their wines, but I promote worldwide, and the same with the cheeses. I love to talk about cheeses to people and have them try something new. I guess it's really just getting people to try something new and different."

*Do you have a lot of cheese from around the world?

"Croatia, Spain, France, Italy, all of it."

I look over at the cheese case and we chuckle.

The lonely cheese

"It's a little slim pickens right now"

"I try to bring in 3 to 4 new cheeses a month, and I love customer requests. They'll request a half pound of a cheese and we'll order two and give them their pound and put the rest in our case and play with it. We do cheese plates and platters and staff pick. You get three oz of cheese." "My staff pick what they want to put on the plate. I don't like it to be the same all the time, cuz that's boring as hell to me. I like to have the customers and myself have fun and pick variations and stuff. You can come in every day, for seven days straight, and get a different cheese plate."

*Have you always wanted to run your own business?

"Yeah. I always thought it would be a restaurant since I've been in the restaurant industry for so long. Then I got out of restaurant business for 6 or 7 years, selling wine to restaurants but not working for them, I was still in the industry. Still on the other side of it, I realized I really love the work but, it's hard to work for other people. I know exactly what the hell I want. All my jobs have been management, so it's basically like I was already running my own business. People thought I already owned my own business. They thought I was closing my own business when I quit to start this place, haha."

She used to sell wine to most of Eastern Washington, and started the territory for the company she worked for. Sounds like your last job was crazy; so, this is basically a cake walk compared to it? We laugh.

"Oh, this is a cake walk compared to that. But, in times like this I would have been furloughed, sitting at home making the same, if not more, money, and not having the stress of the lease and the employees, and all of that. It was someone else's money."

And now it's your investment.

"Exactly. Sole owner, and right now, sole employee."

*Did you have to let your staff go?

"Yeah, let all of them go on March 14th."

More silence.

I don't think I've ever stood in more silence with a stranger in a dark cheese shop before. But I just could not bear to hear my voice speak filler words to fill the silence.

I think about how I am trying to show people the business owners in their space, but I also have constantly felt the difference between me and other business owners because you know, I don't own a brick and mortar. So, it's a little different for me. And I know I can't feel the fear of having that payment, that lease, that signature of ink, setting on a really expenisve line that I imagine feels like a noose right about now. But, I'm here with you. And I'm feeling it with you, even if I can't take any of that burden from you.

"It's f'ing scary as hell to have a brick and mortar right's so scary right now. Several times in the last week I was just like 'I just wish I was working for someone else,' you know? And I could just claim unemployment and go home."

*Are you more concerned now, or when you were first opening your shop?

"Probably now, cuz the uncertainty. The biggest thing that scared me before was the commitment; ya know, to sign a big lease, to commit to a small business in a brick and mortar. Now, it's the uncertainty of where we're going. So, yeah I'm scared."

*Did you grow up in Spokane? For someone who cares so deeply about what she does, she's a perfect fit for the Spokane area and I assumed it meant she'd grown with this town, too.

"I've been in Spokane for about 25 years, but grew up in Okanogan."

"I've been in the food and beverage industry in Spokane for over 20 years. So, there was nowhere else I could start but here."

"I started working at 15 for my first serving job."

And she has been serving ever since.

*Do you feel more freedom now, or before you started your own business?

"Definitely more freedom running my own business for myself rather than working for someone else. And I also don't have any partners. It's just me, and so that's kinda nice cuz I'm only answering to myself and my customers."

Customers have been supporting the Delicato on the two days the shop is open for curbside wine and cheese orders.

"Support, local, is great and all, but it's naive to think that our customers are going to be able to support us through this whole thing, when they're just as scared and worried as we are. You know, we're going to have to have support from the highest level coming down."

It's nice that the thought of ' Support local, support our small businesses', is there. But to me it's weird that that's where their thought stops; like that's how to help them and that's good right there. What's going to happen when the businesses are hurt badly or don't recover?

"Small business is what kinda keeps things going, it can't all be big business."

The shop is still in its first year, like so many other places I've visited during shutdown. The anniversary of the Delicato will be June 28th, Hoopfest Weekend.

"My first week I sold a lot of beer, water, sandwiches, ... but not a lot of wine and cheese my first week, haha. That's great though...yeah, I got exposure and I sold a bunch of stuff."

She laughs.

*Do you have a funniest whoops moment?

"I can't think of one. I know I have to have one. Daily, I wake up saying 'What the f did I forget? I know I forgot something. And that's one of my biggest fears, is forgetting to do something cuz there are so many people I have to report to. So, nothing yet."

Well, hope it stays that way.

Amber watches police cruisers making stops downtown for extra protection for businesses

*Do you think you'll be able to hire your staff back?

"Yeah, for sure. I will probably even hire one more. Planning on introducing big fat sandwiches and box lunches, cuz I think we will be in a down economy for a little bit. I think a lot of the luxury items won't be such a draw."

Well, Amber you are a savy business woman; so, I am thinking you are probably right. And when I am in Spokane again, I'll be in for one of those sandwiches and a beginner crash course on wine. Maybe I'll even sit up on that patio with you after a cooking class and watch the Spokane Skyline put the sun to bed.

I left with fancy olives in my pocket and a new friend on my mind. 1107 People Reached

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