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February 28th, 2007


Chuck Dressel, owner and president of Mount Pleasant Winery, is expanding his operations to Branson with a $2 million wine tasting and retail facility scheduled to open fall 2007. Dressel won't break ground on the building until Feb. 1, but he already envisions big things in store in southwest Missouri's tourism capital. Consider this: Mount Pleasant's current winery in Augusta attracts about 65,000 visitors a year who come to stroll the grounds, view the vineyards and buy bottles of its Norton, chambourcin, vignoles and other varietals. The business generated about $2.75 million in revenue in 2006, Dressel said. In Branson, Dressel expects 200,000 to 250,000 visitors annually. He predicts Mount Pleasant's total revenue will double within two to three years thanks to the additional location. "Branson attracts a lot of the baby boomer generation that is drinking more wine, and it's a good fit for us," Dressel said. "This will be the biggest thing we'll do all year, and it may turn out to be the biggest thing we've done in a couple of decades." Dressel began considering expansion last year when he and his staff noticed Mount Pleasant's sales of sweet wines were dropping and being replaced by dry wines. They decided they either had to discontinue the line or find a new market for their sweet wines. Branson's investments in tourism and infrastructure, combined with its high volume of visitors, convinced Dressel it was worth a closer look. He put a two-acre property in Branson, near Green Mountain Drive and Highway 165, under contract in October and closed on the purchase Jan. 12. Plans call for a 9,190-square-foot limestone-accented building, which will include nearly 3,000 square feet of retail space, more than 2,000 square feet of warehouse storage space, more than 1,500 square feet of wine tasting rooms and about 2,500 square feet of common areas. In addition to tastings at three bars, visitors will be able to bottle their own wine. First National Bank of St. Louis County is financing the expansion. Pellham Phillips Architects of Springfield, Mo., will oversee the architecture, engineering and design. Mark Weisz of Weisz Commercial Realty in Hollister, Mo., served as Realtor. Dressel points to the success of Stone Hill Winery's wine-making, tasting and retail facility in Branson as evidence Mount Pleasant's business can thrive there. Stone Hill, based in Hermann, is the only winery in Branson, where it attracts about 425,000 visitors a year -- more than any other winery location in the state. "The success of most of the Missouri wineries has been centered upon tourism and getting people to our facilities," said Thomas Held, Stone Hill's director of sales and marketing and one of the proprietors of the family owned business. "That's why we opened our facility in Branson 20 years ago. It's a great move for (Mount Pleasant)." Stone Hill struggled in its early years in Branson due to the area's reputation as part of the Bible Belt, Held said. Even today, one of Stone Hill's grape juices is their most successful product in Branson, outselling any individual variety of wine. But the tourism and business climate has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades and helped Stone Hill's business grow. "The marketing effort for Branson used to be solely to families, empty nesters and retirees," Held said. "Now it's not just a music show and theme park location. It's a golf destination, a lakes destination, a shopping destination. Branson has diversified greatly. But whether you are a winery or another business, you are competing for visitors' time. Whoever markets best will reap the rewards." ctritto@bizjournals.com

 



 

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