There are times when you walk into a place and you know, this is going to be something amazing.
It was like that when I entered Brix 27 on North Queen Street. They were still putting on the finishing touches but the combination of high tables, bench seating, papa-sans and couches gave each area a distinctive flair that spoke of something for everyone.
The design includes 6 wine machines and an open-air kitchen that makes the place open and inviting.
Drew and his wife Amber, have already proven themselves a winning combination when it came to taking a property and making it into something special. You need to look no further than The Hub, on East Burke Street to see this.
As Drew puts it, “I know real estate, and Amber knows design.
“They also have a good eye and sense when it comes to helping revitalize downtown Martinsburg, WV.
They had purchased the building in August of 2016 and had been working on some ideas, but they weren’t sure what they were going to do with it.
It wasn’t until some friends were talking about a really cool place in Frederick, MD where they had wine machines, where customers could purchase a card and use that, in turn, to buy wine from the machines.
“We weren’t sure about the idea when we first heard about it,” owner Drew Johnson explains.
Amber was quick to agree. It did sound a bit…different, but the idea floated around and they began to research the machines.
One of the things they liked was the fact that customers can purchase wine in three different sizes—one ounce, two ounces, or four ounces. Or as Drew put it— a taste, a half a glass or a full glass of wine.
The serving sizes mean that a customer can taste the wines suggested without having to buy a full bottle or even a glass.
The machines also allow the staff at Brix 27 to analyze client preferences and make recommendations based on their taste.
Intrigued, they headed to Atlanta to talk with the company that builds the machines.
While the machines were expensive to purchase, Drew and Amber liked what they saw; again, they saw the possibilities.
Once they had the concept, things started coming together from there. They decided on the open-air kitchen serving lunch and dinner, with lunch providing food designed for the fast-moving lunch crowd, and dinner being more of a sit-down dining experience.
After that, they realized that if they were going to be selling wine, they should learn more about the product so they headed out to Napa figuring that if you want to learn about wine, you go to wine country.
Their tour guide selected some vineyards to tour and while touring them they met Toby Hovanski.
“Toby knows wine,” Drew explains. “He comes from a wine family, grew up in wine country, in a wine community.
“Toby talked to them about wine, without making them feel like imposters. In fact, he made them comfortable, and it was obvious that he loved what he was talking about. It was equally obvious that he was just the kind of person they wanted at Brix 27.
They weren’t sure he’d be interested, but at the very least he could help them find someone.
They exchanged numbers and texted back and forth; the more they talked, the more Drew knew they didn’t want someone ‘like’ Toby, they wanted Toby. But would he come?
“Things just started falling into place,” Drew added, describing the process of getting Toby to join the team.
They invited him out to help build their wine portfolio and he liked what he saw.
Two months later Toby moved to Martinsburg and Brix 27 had its General Manager.
“He’s the guy that wine people want. There’s nothing he doesn’t know and he can talk to anyone, on any level about wine,” Drew explained.
As Toby settled in, the next piece fell into place. They needed a chef, someone to hold down the food end of the business and set Brix 27 apart.
That’s where Chef Christian Evans came in. Christian had been the Chef at Bistro 1840 in Harper’s Ferry and at The Final Cut at the Casino in Charles Town before that.
Bistro 1840 was located in The Towns Inn which was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “Hotel Hell” in November 2015. Unfortunately, the inn closed down earlier this year and with it Bistro 1840.With the restaurant closed, Christian was thinking of moving back to the city when Drew and Amber showed him what they were planning. He fell in love with the concept and Brix 27 had its Chef.
With the staff in place and putting on the final touches, Brix 27 will be opening in January 2018.
Brix 27 also has a small room that can be used for tastings, private catered events, and other events such as yoga, paint and wine events, and anything else people can think of.
“We’ve already been approached by several people about painting and wine.
“When it opens, Brix 27 will offer wine, craft beer and spirits, in both the restaurant and in the wine shop next door.
“We won’t be serving mixed drinks,” Drew said, “but we will have a good collection of spirits.”
Drew and Amber hope that people will find Brix 27 a welcoming place where you can sit down with friends and family, share some wine, and have a good time. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply know what you like, they want you to feel at home.
“Martinsburg needs something like this,” Drew said, gesturing around Brix 27.
Amber agreed and added, “To get something like this people have to go elsewhere and that’s a problem when you want to revitalize the downtown area.
“Drew and Amber want this to be a place where you can go after a soccer game, dressed up or dressed down. Brix 27 offers something for everyone.
Lightning may not strike twice in the same place, but if you set things up properly, and put everything where it needs to be, you can guide that lightning, which is exactly what Drew and Amber Johnson have done.