CLEARWATER, Fla. — Being a small business in Clearwater that is not directly on Clearwater Beach can be a challenging task, but for the last 13 years, Bill Linville has been overcoming the odds at Aspirations Winery.
“We bottle on demand,” Linville said while filling up a bottle of wine at a machine in the back of his store. “But this thing can do 14 cases an hour.”
He said tourism in Clearwater has fluctuated after events like major oil spills, red tide and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It seems like there's been a challenge every few years since we started this business back in 2010,” Linville said.
With the pandemic, he said his business had to stay closed for 16 months, and at the time he feared he would have to close the winery for good.
“It was just, you know, a really hard thing to have to deal with,” Linville said.
But once again, Aspirations Winery was able to overcome and to stay in business.
In fact, they ended up doing so well that Linville was able to expand the business to add a bar and events space this past January. On the retail side, Aspirations was thriving even as inflation was rising.
In just the last three years, Linville said they saw an overall price increase of 18% where, normally, that average would be about 3%.
“Everything went up in cost,” Linville said. “Everything from glass to corks to the neck sleeve labels — every single thing that we use to make wine increased in price.”
But, thanks to the retail side of Aspirations, he’s still moving forward hosting live music and comedy shows while making unique cocktail creations at his new bar.
“This one here is kind of a take on a rainbow sherbet,” Linville said while making a drink at Aspirations’ bar.
By increasing his sales, Linville said he was able to offset the cost hikes. He is hoping that even if tourism fluctuates, more people will know his winery and make it a “must stop.”
“The more people that know we're here and they come and visit us, then they're going to come back,” he said.
Linville said his wine is unique because it does not contain many additives or preservatives that prolong a wine’s shelf life which, he says, limits the number of headaches a person gets when drinking.
Aspirations Winery is one of 10 businesses that are a part of AMPLIFY Clearwater’s new small business incubator that’s aimed at helping smaller businesses thrive in the tourism space.