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Uncorking success

Korkage moves to new location


Korkage Wine Bar and Shop, an enological mecca for Southwest Portlanders, has relocated to the former site of the restaurant Three Square Grill. As might be expected of a move across the street, this new location will offer the best features of the old site — and, co-owners Tamairah Boleyn and Executive Chef Earl Johnson promise, a few changes for the better.by: CONNECTION PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - Korkage Co-Owners Chef Earl Johnson and Tam Boleyn outside the wine bar and shop's new location in the Hillsdale Town Center.

Four years ago, the birth of Boleyn’s son inspired her to search for a new vocation with more flexible hours than her longtime career in software marketing could provide. As a Hillsdale resident and wine enthusiast, purchasing Korkage seemed like a no-brainer. But, she said, “I couldn’t do it alone.”

Enter Johnson, an accomplished chef who just happened to be Boleyn’s brother-in-law.

“I was looking for a change,” Johnson recalled. “She kind of caught me at an opportune moment.”

Together Boleyn and Johnson gave Korkage new life, stocking the store with wines palatable to the lay Oregonian and offering small bite and wine pairings curated weekly by Johnson.

It proved to be a popular business model — so much so that he original 800-square-foot space, located at 6351 SW Capitol Highway, couldn’t accommodate its growing customer base for long.

“It’s always a struggle to do food in this place because it’s very small,” Johnson explained. “We’ve been struggling with having to turn people away.”

The Korkage co-owners made the call that rather than stay in their original, tiny location and continue to offer limited cuisine, they should build on the success of their small bites offerings, move to a larger location and offer an expanded menu.

Economically speaking, this makes sense; the more unique a firm’s offerings, the more competitive it is in a given market.

“Being a bottle shop in Portland, it’s hard,” Boleyn said. “We needed additional revenue streams to make the numbers work.”

“It’s a big industry in Portland,” Johnson agreed. “Even though it’s a young industry … so you just have to have another way to get customers and bring in some revenue.”

Hence, their decision to temporarily close up shop and move to the space vacated in May by Three Square Grill, 6320 SW Capitol Highway. Its increased size — about 700 additional square feet — was just part of the draw.

“We’re invested in Hillsdale. We have customers here,” Boleyn said. “We didn’t want to lose them; they didn’t want to lose us. Everyone was like, ‘Please don’t leave Hillsdale.’ We like the neighborhood.”

And size does indeed matter.

The new location “gives us more space, it gives us more seating and it gives us the ability, with a full kitchen back there, to do pretty much everything,” Johnson said. “Wine and food, they’re meant to be together, and the ability to have a kitchen in which I can cook the perfect food for the wines I’m showcasing tonight, that’s a very big thing for me.”

Even though the new Korkage site is located only 285 feet away from the old one, Boleyn and Johnson expect its place in the Hillsdale Shopping Center to bring an unprecedented amount of business.

“We’re going to get much more traffic over there,” Boleyn said.

Customers old and new can expect a larger bar, comfortable bar stools, a side bar and cement flooring where Three Square Grill had featured carpet, in a nod to the original Korkage location.

Korkage’s co-owners have also launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay for open-air windows. They have set up incentives for different levels of dollar pledges. The project will only be funded if at least $16,500 is pledged by 7:59 p.m. July 21. As of June 19, the project had 20 backers who had pledged $2,895. Meanwhile, Korkage has secured an investor in customer Timothy Lowndes.

No matter what, Boleyn said, “It’s going to feel a little more like a part of Hillsdale.”

Korkage will reopen in its new location with longer hours July 9. For more information and to contribute to the Korkage Kickstarter campaign, visit kck.st/11MwLOE.