Within the business community along Madison Street, there’s an emerging trend among retailers to offer customers more than just what is on the shelves.

Stores like Chix With Stix, Team Blonde, Centuries and Sleuths and now House Red are all enticing patrons to spend time with the product, rather than forking over a handful of cash and heading out the door. At 7403 West Madison St., Tara Nemeth and Neb Mrvaljevic have brought in a baby grand piano to encourage customers at House Red, their new wine shop, to stay awhile.

“We didn’t want to be a bar or a liquor store,” Nemeth said. “We want to do cultural events and celebrate the social aspects of wine.”

House Red is trying to create a total experience for wine lovers. It offers wine tasting, wine classes and live music to enhance the refined atmosphere.

The shop owners have also reached out to neighboring businesses to pair their products for an enhanced shopping experience at other locales. Nemeth and Mrvaljevic have joined the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, M2 and have already planned events with Team Blonde, Chix With Stix and Flavour.

Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the chamber, said House Red fits well with these like-minded stores that have taken aim at destination retail.

“You can go to any mall or liquor store and grab a bottle of wine,” Kokenes said. “It’s not just a place to shop it’s a place to learn.”

As residents of Oak Park, the pair first searched in their own town for retail space before turning to Forest Park, where they purchased the space from Denise Norton and Christine Malone, who operate Flavour.

They restored the structure to its original look, exposing its brick walls and tin ceiling. Then they added a baby grand piano.

“The space has great acoustics, with the wood floor and tin ceiling,” Nemeth said. “My husband Chris is a former professional musician and he played violin at our grand opening.”

Chris Nemeth plans to play at the store with other musicians, as well as feature talent from La Piazza’s jazz club.

To add to the store’s ambience, the owners had a long wine-tasting table constructed from old barn wood, with fence post legs. They also installed a large reversible mural on the rear wall.

House Red features wine from around the world, including Israel, Australia, Portugal and France. Bottles range in price beginning at an affordable $15 per.

“We want our store to be welcoming, not intimidating,” Nemeth said. “We want to demystify wine and its lingo.”

As part of the cross promotional effort with other businesses, Heidi Vance of Team Blonde has a wine tasting scheduled for their Dec. 15 Girls Night Out. House Red will supply the vintages and expertise.

“They’ve done a beautiful job with the space,” Vance said.

Chix With Stix owner Beth Clarkson has already tasted some of House Red’s wares.

“They supplied us with wine to celebrate our one year birthday on Oct. 27,” Clarkson said. “They are a great addition to the street and have good prices.”

Clarkson admitted that they “drink wine occasionally during knitting classes” but have banned it from beginner classes.

House Red is also planning to pair its products with cooking classes at Flavour. These types of partnerships between businesses helps to attract other quality stores, Kokenes said, and fuel the word-of-mouth advertising that creates popularity.

“We are a destination now,” Kokenes said. “You can come and do more than just shop.”

House Red will feature wine classes on Tuesday evenings and tasting events on Fridays.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.