Getting to Know Hadley and TJ Douglas
“Mom and pop shops” are not only the backbone of America’s small businesses but also act as conduits within local communities. The Urban Grape, a beloved Boston liquor store, is a fantastic example of a husband and wife team doing precisely this. Hadley and TJ Douglas earnestly and without heirs share their knowledge and a good time with anyone who enters their South End store. It’s no wonder they’ve won Best of Boston six times, and most recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award. Given it is almost Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d ask this magnetic couple about working with one’s spouse, as well as what champagne we should buy for our sweetheart.
1. The Urban Grape has had an impressive run recently, receiving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award and features in renowned periodicals like The New Yorker. How do these recent accomplishments contrast to the goals you set when you opened the first Urban Grape?
H & TJ: It’s been a crazy couple of years, that’s for sure! The mission of The Urban Grape has always been to build community through beverage. That was the goal when ten people walked through the door in a day, and it’s still the goal now. Of course, it’s harder now that a growing percentage of our business has moved online and the customer base has grown so much beyond the South End, but it’s still the purpose behind everything we do. Despite our growth, I think our authenticity and desire to be a community hub still shines through.
2. It can be challenging to carve out time for a marital relationship when you also have a working relationship. Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s Day? Where is your go-to in the city for a romantic dinner?
H & TJ: Our go-to place for a romantic dinner has always been and continues to be our kitchen table. There’s simply not a restaurant that can compete with the joy of cooking together at home, sipping on cocktails, and then choosing a bottle of wine to share. It’s our daily ritual that keeps us connected and signals the end of our work relationship and the start of our family time.
3. You’ve gone from a “Mom and Pop” to an “Entrepreneurial Couple.” What does that mean, and how has it affected your working relationship?
H & TJ: This question got us thinking! When we first opened, there was a lot of inequity in our working relationship. It was really TJ’s dream that Hadley was helping with. Now that we’ve made a mental shift to thinking of ourselves as entrepreneurs, it’s brought a lot more balance to our lives. We are working hard to progress the company, implement new ideas, and grow our business ventures. Anyone who works with us can tell you that we ALWAYS start with opposing views and then slowly end up meeting in the middle to find the right path forward. You can’t do that without a lot of trust and belief in the other person.
4. What’s the hottest/coolest varietal on the market right now?
H & TJ: We get more excited about regions than varietals, and the hottest region for us right now is South Africa. There’s intriguing, delicious, and interesting wine coming out of the country, especially by Black winemakers who are owning wine brands for the first time in the country’s history. Also, keep an eye on Georgia – the country, not the state! Both Georgia and South Africa have incredible winemaking history but have been largely overlooked in the modern age. That is changing quickly. We’ll never say what a cooled-off varietal or region is – if you like it, drink it. Who cares what anyone else thinks!
5. If we want to impress our Valentine, what bottle of champagne should we bring to dinner?
H & TJ: There’s Champagne, and then there’s CHAMPAGNE. We won’t name names, but we’d much rather go for something interesting than the expected choice that you can now find in every grocery store in the country – what’s special about that? Look for Pol Roger, Bruno Paillard, Pierre Paillard, Egly Ouriet, Diebolt-Vallois, Le Mesnil, and other lesser known, but higher quality, Champagnes to really impress!
A big thanks to Hadley and TJ Douglas for sharing.
Learn to “drink progressively” by buying their book HERE.
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