The Winehound, one of Santa Barbara’s most popular wine shops, is being sold, but the buyer remains unknown and the current employees remain uncertain of their fates. That’s what customers learned via an email newsletter on Monday from general manager Bob Wesley, who many mistakenly believed was the owner of the shop that opened on Chapala Street in 2008 before moving to La Cumbre Plaza in 2012.
“Today, we must announce that The Winehound will be transferring ownership early next year, and we’d like to thank you, our loyal clients, for your support since April of 2008 when the doors opened,” he wrote, explaining that the store’s current inventory is being liquidated. “We’ve been delighted to introduce our patrons to the finest vino we’ve encountered, and perhaps turn a palate or two onto something unexpected and flavorsome.”
The email triggered a “very kind and gratifying outpouring” from customers, said Wesley on Monday afternoon, but the future remains murky. “We have no idea who the new owners will be,” said Wesley. “They can’t disclose it yet, so we are waiting to find out.” As to the job status for himself and colleagues Betty Dunbar and Dennis Ferguson, both very familiar faces in Santa Barbara’s tight-knit wine world, Wesley simply said, “There is a question mark there.”
Earlier this year, they learned that the shop’s owners, the Adams Wine Group, had put the property on the market. “They are getting out of the bricks and mortar end of the business and focusing on the other multi-level businesses they have in the wine industry,” said Wesley. The group is owned by Steve Adams, who made his fortune from the Camping World retail chain before getting into wine. The group also owns Roblar Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley, some French properties, and various shipping and production interests. “We were just a small part of it,” said Wesley.
The ongoing liquidation will allow the new owner to start with a clean slate, said Wesley, who is also unsure whether the shop’s focus on Santa Barbara County wine and international value offerings will remain. What is known is that the new owner plans to keep The Winehound brand intact, which may bode well for Wesley’s status, since he is so tied to the store’s success. “After everything is finalized, the name can be revealed, and we can see what their intentions are,” said Wesley.