By TIM KELLY
Does passion drive Michael Bray’s business, Passion Vines Wine and Spirit Company?
“I think it does,” Bray said. “We have a passion for our products, a passion for our customers, and a passion for our community.”
Bray, 42, founded Passion Vines in 2008 and located in his hometown of Somers Point, where he still resides with wife Kimberly and children Dylan, 11 and Jocelyn, 8.
“We’re a little, yet passionate company that set out to be the most competitive and respected experience by connecting our passion with yours,” he told clients in a social media post.
The products are wine, beer and spirits. Staff member Dave Baldwin, “our whiskey guy,” says Bray, has been running the popular “Whiskey Wednesday” for years.
Held at the company’s Somers Point location, Baldwin reviews new releases, flight specials and more. More than 150 bottles are open for samples, with no reservation required, according to the Passion Vines website.
New products sometimes require more information. That is where Nikki Myers comes in. Myers leads “our Team and Customer education on wine,” Bray pointed out.
She is in charge of “internal and external education,” meaning research to acquire and offer the best products and to keep the staff up-to-date on the latest items for sale at the company’s retail outlets.
“Those two have 20 years combined knowledge, which our customers and staff benefit from,” Bray said of Baldwin and Myers.
Bray said the company’s tag line is “Your Liquor, Delivered!” Same-day orders can be placed at PassionVines.com.
Passion Vines will travel from its home base all along the South Jersey shore to deliver its multiple product offerings, and beyond, on a special order basis, Bray said.
Which brings us to the third passion: Community. Bray said he wants to give back to the folks who’ve helped make Passion Vines so successful.
He found a goal and a mission to do so close to home with his mom, Jayne Bray. Mrs. Bray, now 73, was diagnosed with MS 31 years ago and courageously lived with the condition during that time.
“The goal is to raise funds and awareness and make a difference to find a cure,” Bray said.
The vehicle for this is a fundraiser, The Right Notes, held in cooperation with Greate Bay Country Club and the MS Society of America. Combining wine, beer and spirits, music and raising money to fight MS, the event is Passion Vines’ top philanthropic event.
Now planning for its ninth edition on Sept. 23, The Right Notes has evolved into a difference-making evening. The event was not held in 2020 amid the pandemic, but has raised approximately $500,000 over the course of its short history.
“This has become a very anticipated night and we really got it rolling,” Bray said. “People can enjoy a social evening, all the great food Greate Bay has to offer, and best of all, to help raise substantial funds to battle MS.”
Event proceeds benefit local people affected by MS as well as the National MS Society, he added.
“This isn’t a little fundraiser anymore. It’s an opportunity to fight back and to help us reach the ultimate goal – to cure this disease,” Bray said.
Attendees can enjoy more than 100 top-scoring wines, craft beers, and spirits. There will also be a panel of experts to answer questions about wine and spirits and guide guests through all the offerings.
For more information and tickets, visit the Passion Vines website at PassionVines.com, call (888) 601-VINE (8463) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Passion Vines is also active on social media such as Facebook and Instagram among others.
“We have a presence on all of those platforms,” Bray said. “Social media enables customers to reach out instantly with questions and suggestions and allows us keep that communication going.”
Expansion is in the works for Passion Vines’ locations in Somers Point and the main retail outlet in Egg Harbor Township.
So what does the future hold for Passion Vines?
“Well, expansion,” Bray said.
“Part of our expansion plans are to increase our footprint at PassionVines.com as we continue to ship to every permissible state in the country,” he added.
Additional space was added to the main retail outlet at 3013 Ocean Heights Avenue in Egg Harbor Township.
Also, the original location, the Passion Vines Wine Bar and Spirit Company, a full service bar at 265 New Road in Somers Point, in the Somers Point Plaza, has an opportunity to expand, Bray said.
The former K-Mart store is being converted to a Target location, “which gives us the chance not only for a larger space, but also to benefit from an increase in walk-up business,” Bray said.
Hours of operation at the Passion Vines locations are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.