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Business Raising the bar: Revamped retailer taps into trendy Magnolia scene

Raising the bar: Revamped retailer taps into trendy Magnolia scene

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44Bootlegger

1411 W. Magnolia Ave.

Fort Worth 76104

817-887-9089

www.44bootlegger.com

When Tommy and Tammy Brown launched 44Bootlegger, a hipster clothing store on Fort Worth’s Near Southside, their mission was to disrupt what retail is along booming Magnolia Avenue.

The husband-and-wife entrepreneurs had planned one of the neighborhood’s first wine bars. Kent & Co., Grand Cru and the WineHaus didn’t exist yet. Instead the Browns answered a need for quality retail in the Fairmount National Historic District now abuzz with trendy restaurants and bars.

“We wanted to open a cool wine bar but at the same time there was a calling for retail. There was a lack of quality retail in Fort Worth and a pressure to bring retail to Magnolia,” Tammy said. “We thought we could hit the ground running with a retail concept and layer in a wine bar later. In the meantime, all those others came.”

Tommy, 45, and Tammy, 44, have remained friends since their teenage years growing up in Fort Worth. Tommy, a divorced dad, owned a wholesale footwear business when Tammy, a divorced stay-at-home mom, came to work for him as an office manager. They married five years ago. After pooling together some savings and some credit, they signed a long-term lease, renovated the space and opened their retail spot in January 2014. Located at the corner of Magnolia and Fairmount avenues, 44Bootlegger occupies former storage space for next-door neighbor Jim’s Lock & Safe.

“When we came in there was no heating or air conditioning, no restrooms. We took out the dropped ceiling and did a lot of work to make the space comfortable for a man or a woman,” Tommy said.

With the theme, “Him, Her, Home,” the industrial-styled store offered shoppers quality goods from apparel and footwear to home décor, including handmade furniture fashioned out of Texas-sourced reclaimed wood from Dallas-based fabrication and design company, 44Build. The business references Tommy’s background as a boot and shoe salesman – his first job at age 16 was working for Larry’s Shoes, a Fort Worth icon no longer in business – and also is named as an homage to his grandmother, who was a bootlegger in Lubbock during the 1960s and ‘70s.

While shoppers browsed, Tommy and Tammy poured complimentary wine and beer.

“People would sit and drink and look around and not really shop. It was more like a bar experience but we weren’t a bar,” Tammy said.

One day a customer with a background in marketing stopped in. He praised the couple on their shop and then offered some advice.

“He said, ‘I think if you take heed to this you’ll be successful. Your customers will tell you who you are. If you are willing to listen to that you’re going to do fine. But if you fight it and don’t listen to it you’ll be like all these other businesses that go out of business,’” Tammy said. “We began to take notice. People were telling us without saying it that they wanted to hang out and drink here. Magnolia told us people were bar hopping and not really shopping.”

“You don’t shop hop on Magnolia,” Tommy added.

After almost two years cultivating a retail business, the couple had their “aha” moment.

The couple closed the shop after Christmas and spent a few months revamping the space into a chic craft beer and wine bar. They toasted their revised business with a grand opening on April 3 during the Open Streets event.

“From day one we’ve been busy,” said Tommy. “We’re getting some regulars too.”

Cozy and relaxed, the hip lounge accommodates 50 people comfortably and still features 44Build’s hand-crafted furniture. The walls are lined with vintage, hand-hewn doors, many of them centuries old. The doors reflect the familiar saying, “When one door closes, another door opens.”

“I think everyone can relate to that,” Tammy said. “Relationships end, new ones begin. Businesses close, new ones open.”

The bar’s rotating selection of 44 wines from around the world and 44 beers from around the country is carefully curated by Tommy and Tammy and helps distinguish 44Bootlegger from other wine bars and restaurants along Magnolia. The bar offers specialty drinks and daily features such as $20 bottomless Prosecco every Thursday and Tuesday night’s “44 special” $4 wines and $4 craft beers. Patrons also can buy beers and wines to take home.

“Our vibe is different. Our concept is different. When you say 44 beers and 44 wines there’s nothing comparable out there. That 44 is a huge defining of who we are,” Tammy said.

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