When Katherine Haswell lost her job at a high-end rooftop restaurant in New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she returned to her hometown to visit her longtime friend, Maya Velesko.
Haswell, a certified sommelier, came to Gainesville for what she thought was a two-week visit but ended up living out of a suitcase for three months.
“It was discouraging at first, during the early stages of the pandemic, because I could no longer afford my apartment in New York and was jobless,” she said.
The two longtime friends formed a plan.
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Together, with more than 50 years of combined hospitality experience, the idea clicked to start a local wine-related business. The idea came at a time of the closing of the original Civilization, a popular Pleasant Street restaurant.
Unfortunate for the owners, but too good to be true, thought Haswell, 42.
“We both realized that the building where Civilization was located was available and we thought it would be a perfect solution for our project,” she said.
The result: Superette Wine + Provisions.
It is described as a bottle shop, market and deli, as well as a slice of France and New Orleans in the heart of Gainesville. “Superette” is a common name for a supermarket in France and New Orleans. Because the company is woman-owned, and the suffix “ette” in French means “woman.”
Together, Haswell and Velesko said they consider themselves to be superwomen, so the title was fitting.
The friends knew they wanted to create a space where people could socialize and enjoy themselves. Their main inspiration came from various travels throughout the world but most notably a New Orleans wine bar called Bacchanal and Gainesville’s now closed Original Wine and Cheese Gally.
“Trying to start a business during COVID was a leap of faith that we took together,” Haswell said.
Superette began as an online ordering wine shop in May of 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic. By the fall of 2020, people were able to visit the shop and purchase wine for the holidays. Now, lunch and dinner menus are available, along with dining tables in a garden setting.
Superette’s newest feature is “educated wine tastings,” which are expected to be held once a month at its 1511 NW 2nd St. Gainesville location.
The first wine class, held in early April, was an introduction to swirling, sniffing and sipping wine like a sommelier. The class cost $45 and included cheese and bread plates, with four pours of four different wines per person.
The four wines explored at the first class were Yount Mill House Napa Valley 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Joseph Drouhin Saint Veran 2020, Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Maison Chanzy Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2019.
Elder Varela, a loyal customer, was among the enthusiastic tasters.
“I saw their Instagram post about an upcoming wine class and immediately forwarded it to my two friends, Isabella Ramirez and Krystel Torres, because I know they love wine and it’s difficult for us to get together,” Varela said.
Haswell gave a brief overview of each wine, explaining which region it came from and what to look for when trying to differentiate wine.
“The ambiance here is very serene and makes you feel like you’re not in a usual Gainesville college town bar,” said Ramirez, now a regular at Superette. “Before this class, I knew nothing about wine.”
“The most important thing I learned was the advantages and disadvantages of using a screw cap versus a cork to preserve wine,” she added.
The first wine class drew a total of 25 people, who were all seated at a large communal table outside together.
“I love to educate and work with people,” Haswell said. “I really feel like I’m in my element while teaching a class. We typically have a great group of participants who are very engaged, having fun with their friends and asking some wonderful questions.”
Haswell taught wine classes at Santa Fe Community College for several years.
Superette also already offers a wine club. For $99 every month, members receive four bottles of wine handpicked by the owners. And at an event every Thursday you can, for $10, receive four pours. The wines are different every week.
All the wines are organic and made without the use of chemicals or pesticides. The food all comes from local Gainesville farms.
Velesko and Haswell said they view Superette as a long-term investment.
“We have a lot of ideas for how we want to expand this concept,” Haswell said. “We’d actually like to build out an indoor wine bar at the existing location, host more entertaining events, and offer a variety of lessons.”