ROCK FALLS – Sometimes, plans for the future take root in the past.
Violet Jaramillo, 44, grew up in Sterling, then spent most of her 20s enjoying a fast-paced urban lifestyle. A business consultant for retailers, she has traveled the world, living in Chicago, Montreal and Tokyo.
But in 2000, a slower pace beckoned, and she moved back to Sterling.
“I lived a nomadic life, and after 20 years of living out of a suitcase, it gets old,” the Sterling High School grad said.
Jaramillo said she always saw herself returning to her roots and owning a business in the area. The vision is now becoming reality.
The property she bought at 205 W. Second St. in Rock Falls will soon be opened as The Grapevine Wine and Martini Bar. Renovations are underway at the 1,200-square-foot space, and she hopes to have the bar open in mid-September.
Jaramillo is drawing on her business and personal experiences to bring a bit of the big city to her niche establishment.
“I want to bring a cosmopolitan, urban vibe to the downtown,” she said. “This is not going to be a beer and shots bar. There will be many flavors of martinis, and I want people to be able to broaden their experiences with wine.”
There will be a small selection of craft and domestic beers, but the focus will be on the type of wine and martinis that oftentimes can be found only in upscale restaurants. Bottles of wine will be available for carryout.
She realizes that her niche could make the bar more appealing to women, but that element is also part of her business plan.
“I want to cater to women; I think there is an unmet need here for a place where women can go out and feel comfortable and relaxed,” Jaramillo said. “I want this to be a place where I’d want to hang out.”
Because the building is small and the owner wants to “concentrate on what I know” there won’t be a kitchen. There will be gourmet snack foods such as cheese and sausage trays, fruit and chocolates.
The look of the building will continue the urban theme, and will eschew traditional bar decorations, instead opting for an artistic feel.
“It will be somewhat industrial, yet modern and sophisticated,” Jaramillo said. “There will be art instead of the usual bar signs.”
Patrons will be able to hang out on the deck in back, and there will be a small stage to accommodate two or three musicians. Jazz and lounge music will be the preferred genre.
Jaramillo believes wine is an art form, and she eventually would like to bring in a sommelier for those who would like to broaden their horizons.
Jaramillo had initially looked at buildings in Morrison, believing there was an unmet need for her entertainment offering. Things didn’t work out there, and a couple of years ago, she was asked about buying a building in Rock Falls.
“I had at first said no, but when they told me the hotel was coming in, I made a decision to do this within 2 weeks,” she said.
She said city officials have been very helpful. She is one of the first business owners to receive funds from the city’s new facade improvement grant program, administered by Rock Falls Community Development Corp.
“Community leaders showed me some plans for the riverfront,” she said. “Everything is starting to come together, and it’s going to be very cool.”
Randy Balk, RFCDC executive director, said it should be a top priority for small communities to bring back their own.
“We have to make changes to entice our people to come back,” Balk said. “It’s a quality of life issue – striving to make home more attractive.”
Balk said the facade program is an example of how important it is to reach out to smaller-scale entrepreneurs.
“This infuses enthusiasm for projects like Violet’s,” Balk said. “The hotel is spurring smaller investments, and before you know it, there could be 10 to 12 Violets to compliment the bigger development that is bringing in visitors.”
4-10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
4-11 p.m. Friday
2-11 p.m. Saturday
*If the bar is busy, it could stay open later on Fridays and Saturdays, owner Violet Jaramillo said.