MANSFIELD ─ The 1285 Winery learned to pivot its business in a pandemic year, just like many of its counterparts.
The winery started an online order system shortly after restaurants were shut down by the state government last March. It developed takeout orders and created new items on the menu, turning 2020 into a successful year.
Andrew Beilstein, general manager of 1285 Winery, recently won the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award from Richland Young Professionals. The honor is given to a Richland County business that started or reinvented itself in the last 24 months and is led or owned by a young professional.
Founded in 2014 at The Blueberry Patch, 1285 Winery is known for its signature sweet blueberry wine and wood-fired pizza. Beilstein said the restaurant used to be a place where people meet friends and stay two to four hours -- until the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
He remembered the “scary moment” when Gov. Mike DeWine ordered restaurants and bars to close. Beilstein said his families, who all work at the business, quickly decided at the same night they were going to have an online order system.
Takeout was never a big thing for the winery before the shutdown, Beilstein said. But after the family meeting, they made takeout paper menus and put them on the website and Facebook page. They delivered pizzas and wine sometimes to a customer 10 to 15 miles away.
“We conveyed a clear message: We are still open in some capacity. Do not forget about us because you cannot come to see us anymore,” Beilstein said.
The strategy kept the business alive.
Beilstein said the restaurant did special orders for Easter pastries last year. For Mother’s Day, one of its most significant days in a year, the business offered brunch to-go. When Ohio began to allow takeout alcohol drinks, wine slushies were presented to customers.
“That's another big draw that we had in the summertime,” Beilstein said. “We were doing hundreds of slushies to-go some nights.”
He said the winery was always thinking about offering something different to keep the business going.
Of course, locating at the same place as The Blueberry Patch helped attract customers. Beilstein said the 40-year-history patch saw a record number of first-time customers in 2020 because more people sought safe activities to do locally.
The Blueberry Patch and 1285 Winery might draw different crowds, Beilstein said, but they, along with the gift shop, all play off each other. That combination and made it a good year.
The pandemic has taught business owners many things, including the extent of the community’s support.
“We learned that this community really has (our) back. People are extremely generous,” Beilstein said.
When the winery was open for indoor dining, customers left phenomenal tips for servers. Beilstein said many servers had been on unemployment benefits and would have tears at the end of the night, being thankful for the unexpected kindness.
He also said he appreciated people being patient with all the safety guidelines and the extended waiting time resulting from the adjusted business model.
“We could not have done it without our customers,” he said.
Now the Beilsteins are working on a new project. They started constructing a new building on the property two years ago, which will provide larger space for the winery, gift shop and a better check-in area for blueberry picking.
Beilstein said the new building could be a wedding or event venue. He hopes to make it ready for the public in the next few months.