10 Minutes with...

Jennifer Havens, owner, Wines by Jennifer®

The Kansas City Business Journal



When did you decide to start your business?


Last summer. I was going to make a career change. I had been in the energy-trading industry and wanted to do something completely different. I had traveled for 18 years. The nice part is I used to fly myself. I'm a pilot and had my own airplane. I used to jump in the plane like most people jump in their cars.


Why a wine store?


When I traveled, it didn't matter whether it was to Texas or Michigan, I always tried to find the winery just because I love the atmosphere. I wondered if I could simulate what it feels like to be in the winery. Once I formulated my idea, I went straight to the Parkville aldermen. That's just my personality.


What business challenges did you face as a woman?


I don't think it's hard to do. Maybe I'm very fortunate because I've never let anything stop me from doing anything. I was an executive at one of the Fortune 150 companies in Kansas City that went bankrupt (Farmland Industries Inc.), and I left for multiple reasons. I wanted to fly. People said I was crazy and asked why I would want to leave. I didn't want to be shackled to a corporation.


Where do your customers come from?


I'd say 45 percent come from south of the river. Half are from the Northland -- people who live at places like The National and Riss Lake and Weatherby. The other 5 percent are from out of town. I focus on small wineries, boutique wineries. Many are family-owned. I've had winemakers from Italy, the Argentine region in South America, from Australia. Those winemakers, when they're in their tasting rooms, they'll tell people if you ever get to Kansas City or you live in Kansas City, come to my shop. In fact, Tom Watson's brother, Ridge, makes wine. He lives in Carmel Valley (Calif.). He tells people to come to my shop.


Where do you like to travel?


In the fall, I'm going to the wine country in Oregon. I travel at least once a quarter, and I try to bring my customers along. For Valentine's weekend, we're going to take the train to the wineries in Hermann. I'll be going to New Zealand and Australia in 2005.


How do you market your store?


As a destination. I don't get many people who just come to Parkville to walk around. So I've done all kinds of advertising on the radio. I've done newspaper ads, magazines. My background is in marketing and sales, so I believe you have to get your name out in front of people and keep it out there constantly because there are a lot of choices of things for people to do. I have a lot of customers who come here once and then bring back friends. They make it a trip. They come here, and then they'll go to dinner in Parkville.


Where do you see Parkville in five years?


We're increasing the quality of the shops. Stone Canyon (Pizza Co.) was the first large investment and then Piropos (Argentinian Restaurant). That put in some anchors. You have to have anchors in any area where you want to draw people. We'll keep growing, but we'll also keep our charm because so many of the aldermen and the people who own the stores come from here and understand our history.


What will you be doing in five years?


I'll have more stores. But I can't be alone. I need other things around me for people to do. If people are out for the evening, they're going to want restaurants, and if they're not there, it's going to make it more difficult for them to make the decision to come. Plus, you need a community of homes that are more affluent. It's important to have that structure of community around my next location. I don't want to cannibalize the customers I already have, so I probably won't open my next shop in Kansas City.

Originally published Jan. 30th, 2004

The Kansas City Business Journal

Wines by Jennifer®

405 Main Street

Parkville, MO 64152

816.505.9463 (WINE)

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