For our May spotlight, we spoke with Kelsey Daniels, co-owner (with her husband, Kent) of Flights Wine Bar.
Flights Wine Bar, located in Bend, Oregon, went from pipe dream to reality after Daniels quit her job in film production to pursue her passion. With Daniels’ expert wine curation (she personally does all the wine tasting and buying herself) and chef Nick Ragazzo’s perfectly paired food menu, Flights Wine Bar is a must-see for locals and travelers alike.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
At the wine bar, we do wine flights—four different flights, and those change every week. We also do wine by the glass, have retail bottle sales, and then have a full-service kitchen for lunch and dinner.
What made you decide to start Flights Wine Bar?
It was kind of a pipe dream for a long time. I was in a completely different industry, film production, so it was kind of untraditional.
Wine was always a passion of mine, and we needed to move out of state for my husband’s job. So, I quit my job for a while and started working at a wine shop. I started studying, loved it, and became a Certified Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine. And I was just like yeah, I think I can do this for real!
We moved to Bend, and I thought it would be a good fit. It took a year and a half to find the location and get it all together, and we opened in November 2021.
How do you put together your food and drink menu?
So I’m only responsible for half of it—I do all the wine buying. I taste every wine before we bring it in.
We have an amazing chef, Nick Ragazzo, who comes up with the food menu. We try to keep it rotating seasonally and kind of changing it up every so often.
What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
I like that I’m my own boss and that I get to make the decisions on how the day is going to go, how much we take on. I’m not just following what someone else’s dream is.
We also have the most amazing staff—I don’t know how we got so lucky, it’s so hard to find labor in Bend and everywhere right now—but we have the nicest, most dedicated workers we could imagine. We all get along, and it makes it really fun going to work.
What are some of the biggest challenges of running your own business?
Probably the unpredictability of everything. We’ll have the busiest day ever, and the slowest day ever in the same week, without any real rhyme or reason.
Also just getting everything off the ground, it’s 24/7 for the foreseeable future, which is what we signed up for, but it does get exhausting.
How does Patriot’s Full Service Payroll help you?
I do all the accounting and payroll myself, and I don’t have a lot of background aside from doing it for film production. So, I was looking for a more time-efficient way to do that, and it was actually my mom who recommended Patriot—she owns a business and uses you. Simple, easy, and user-friendly.
It’s intuitive and really doesn’t take me long. I was worried about all the tip income we deal with and all we had to do with it, but it’s very easy.
When it comes to Flights Wine Bar, what are you most proud of?
In the short amount of time we’ve been open, we have such a great community of regular customers and people who just come in and are happy to be there.
We’ve built it in this short amount of time, and that was the goal—to make a place where people could come together and hang out—and seeing it come to fruition has been really rewarding.
What words of advice do you have for people hoping to start their own business?
You can’t do it alone. We had so much support from different mentors in restaurant and wine businesses and the Small Business Administration (SBA). We reached out to so many different people that really supported us and filled in the gaps in our knowledge.
Oh! And don’t plan any trips for the first few years—you won’t be able to leave.
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