We had the good fortune of connecting with Curtis Schalchlin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Curtis, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It was honestly quite naive. I did not grow up in a household that drank wine. My curiosity and knowledge regarding wine began when I was 19 at a part time job in Whittier California with Trader Joe’s. By the age of 27 I had moved from East Los Angeles up to San Luis Obispo and began helping some friends make wine for their fledgling label on my days off. Over the course of a couple years I would lend a hand when time allowed until one day one of my friends was gracious enough to offer me the opportunity to make my own wine in their cellar. It really never dawned on me that was something available to me or something that I even wanted to do. I remember sitting alone thinking about it and deciding, why not?? I was really into drinking wine and learning about it. I enjoyed the work involved in making it. Making wine on my own seemed like a safe bet, at least for a side hustle….The naivety came from the not so insignificant part or running a business that I knew nothing about, marketing and sales. All of it was very DIY and fortunately as my skills grew, so did the business. There was something about the early days, especially after quitting my day job that was just like, all the chips were in and failure was not an option. My focus was very intense. I can remember every kind word and every sale, no matter how small were fuel for the fire. I just took every one as encouragement that I was on the right path. Thinking back I realize what a crazy long shot it was but also so much fun. I truly believe one of the best parts of business ownership is starting and building the business and some of my fondest memories come from these times.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think my story is actually pretty simple. I just work hard and love what I do. I am lucky enough to have had my wife join this crazy journey with me back in 2010 and have conned many talented people to jump in and work with us over the years. I really have broken all the rules as far as don’t work with your spouse or don’t work with your friends. The problem with those rules for me has always been that I don’t really have a strong line between work and other parts of my life. I don’t punch a clock. I have a lifestyle which incorporates my work. Unfortunately for them, my employees are my extended family. We work together, eat together, hang out together, celebrate in each other, help each other and invest in each other. Believe me lines are blurred and at times things can be challenging but I live by a motto of “family first” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am a huge Laker fan so that’s easy. Laker game followed by a night out of eating and drinking at multiple LA hotspots depending on the time of the game.
I also grew up going to Dodger games so that would also be on the list depending on the time of year. I would advise a pre-game beer at Sunset Beer Co. followed by a casual stroll up the hill to the game.
I think you would have to do a day at the Getty Center and don’t forget to make a reservation at “The Restaurant”. Great seasonal menu and epic views.
A trip to one of the Silverlake Wine Group’s shops in Silverlake, Pasadena or Highland Park. Amazing service and a finger on the pulse of what the cool kids are drinking.
Highland Park Bowl is a fun night out. Reserve a lane and sip on some amazing cocktails.
Classic food spots:
Phillippe for a French Dip
Pink’s for a Hot Dog
Cielito Lindo for Taquitos
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Silverlake Wines and Randy Clement. I can remember one of my first sales trips – I had chosen to forego email and wrote some letters. Some of you may not know this but we used to actually handwrite letters and mail them to people. Ha! Well I sent a bunch of letters to wine shops down in the LA area and followed up with a phone call about a week later. I ended up putting together a decent list of accounts willing to see me. I took two days off my day job, loaded up the back of my Subaru wagon with wine and headed south on the 101. On this trip I met Randy Clement of Silverlake Wines. I walked into the shop, we met, he asked me what my story was, tasted the wine and said, “I’ll take ten cases”. I was quite shocked as this was my largest sale ever, but I tried to play it cool and asked him if he had a hand truck I could borrow. He looked at me and said, “What?! Do you have the wine in the back of your F*ing car or something?”. I’m pretty sure I was red in the face as I sheepishly said, “Yeah”. Randy started laughing, got me a hand truck and I could hear him starting to tell the story to his employees as I walked out the door to get his wine. I had no idea this wasn’t the way things worked. I didn’t even know wine delivery companies existed, but thanks to Randy I learned quick. He called me about a week later and ordered another 10 cases. I was floored, but then had to figure out how to get him the wine. I’m pretty sure Randy and Silverlake Wines single handedly went through all of that first vintage of wine I released commercially. I just want to thank Randy and the now Silverlake Wine Empire for helping me get on my feet and for all of the support over the years. If you don’t know these folks and who they are, then you now have no excuse – go check out: Silverlake Wines, Highland Park Wine and Everson Royce, Pasadena. These people set the standard for service and what you should be drinking in the world of wine.
Yelp: Sans Liege Winery