A Boozy Business
Dating back to ancient times, wine has been a mainstay of societies around the world. It was used for centuries for its medicinal properties and even now is chosen for its rich antioxidants. It may be selecting the perfect wine to complement their favorite dish for some. For others, it is a way to relax after a long day. Wine is celebratory and used to toast a bride and groom. It evokes feelings of romance, elegance and timelessness. Champagne, a sparkling wine, is used to christen new ships and launch them on their maiden voyage. Wine is often given as a thoughtful housewarming gift and shared among friends as they enjoy each other’s company. Many churches use real wine for holy communion. The Bible even records the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding. Make no mistake, this age-old libation is engrained in cultures the world over. Still, here in our tiny spot on the globe, two Texarkana friends, Donna Griffin and Judy Smith, have put a relatively new twist on this old favorite.
Judy explains, “Wine was beginning to be the new ‘in drink.’ Neither of us liked wine; we were margarita girls.” Then, while enjoying a day by the pool, the two discussed how they might enjoy drinking wine if it were frozen. All great businesses begin with an idea, and this revelation started these friends on what has now become a 17-year successful business venture.
Donna and Judy worked with a recipe developer and created their first product, Wine Glacé®. Described by the pair as “an upscale, gourmet item,” it is a simple concept with a considerable impact. Wine-A-Rita® is a drink mix, and all you need to enjoy this amazing product in your own home is a bottle of wine, ice, a blender and, of course, the Wine-A-Rita® mix. Wine-A-Rita® mixes can also be combined with ginger ale for a non-alcoholic option. The new concept for a frozen drink was launched to the public in 2004 at the local Mistletoe Market, an annual fundraising trade show hosted by the Junior League of Texarkana. The response was enough to assure Donna and Judy they had found a niche market. They ventured beyond Texarkana to Dallas Market and AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia. These two wholesale trade venues provided just the exposure that was needed.
Wine Glacé® continued to gain popularity, and after three years of success, another flavor was added to the Wine-A-Rita® family. Peach Bellini was an instant success winning multiple awards, including Fan Favorite and Best Drink in Atlanta, Dallas, and Las Vegas markets. It remains the number one seller to date, and both Donna and Judy list it among their personal favorites. Wine-A-Rita® now proudly offers 11 flavors to choose from, including their latest introduction to the lineup, Key Lime, which they recommend blending with whipped cream vodka. Judy describes it as “a boozy key lime pie” and gushes, “Oh my!” When adding new flavors, the team says they consider current food trends and then brainstorm until they come up with just the right idea. New products are first tested on employees who love tasting days. “Every time we introduce a new flavor, we promise it will be our last!” stated Judy.
Wine-A-Rita® is primarily a wholesale business with their biggest customers being wineries. Donna and Judy have secured sales for their popular products in over 2000 retail locations across the United States and credit the majority of their customer base to their presence in the Dallas and Atlanta markets. They do not use sales representatives, but prefer to maintain a personal connection to their customers. Donna commented on the many friendships the two have made over the years, and Judy expressed their appreciation for customer referrals.
As the entrepreneurs expanded their enterprise, they proved they had more than just great ideas. They personally worked on marketing their product and getting it in the hands of the public. Wine-A-Rita® was exhibited in more than 15 wholesale shows from the East Coast to the West Coast. In addition to the wholesale market, Donna and Judy both work retail trade shows. Donna shared that they have done as many as 21 shows in a year, with eight of them being retail shows during the few weeks between September and the week before Thanksgiving. She said, “We became an expert at pulling a trailer and driving a 26 foot Ryder truck.” This is just one of the myriad of personal anecdotes the two share from being in business together. Donna reflected on their only regret. She stated they wished they would have kept a journal of their experiences together. The local business owners now have permanent showrooms at Dallas Market Center and AmericasMart Atlanta. Judy focuses her efforts in Dallas while Donna works the Atlanta market.
The company also has an internet presence. Wholesale vendors can place orders for Wine-A-Rita® products directly on the website at WineGlace.com. Orders are packed and shipped from the Texarkana warehouse within 24 hours. Donna added, “We take pride in and have many compliments on our customer service.” The website also offers retail sales for individuals who may not have access to a local vendor. However, Donna adds, “We always like to refer customers to local retailers.” Wine-A-Rita® mixes can be purchased locally at Julie’s Deli, The Party Factory and Fan Fare Gifts. If you prefer to purchase Wine-A-Rita® by the glass, you can visit Pop’s Place or Redbone Brewing for a drink.
Being a Texarkana based business, Donna and Judy were thrilled to partner with Opportunities, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides developmental and support services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. From soon after the business began until 2020, individuals from Opportunities Adult Center would cut and sew fabric bags for the Wine-A-Rita® mixes. Unfortunately, because of COVID, they could no longer maintain that partnership. Donna said, “They were a joy to work with.” Both Donna and Judy are hopeful they will get the chance to work with the men and women at Opportunities, Inc. again in the future.
After more than 30 years of friendship, they know how to make this company work; they draw on each other’s strengths. Donna is the numbers girl and handles the accounting, while Judy uses her creativity to steer marketing. Fortunately, both women love the customer service aspect of the business. This is no doubt one of the most significant contributors to their success. Judy stated confidently, “I could not ask for a better business partner.”
Donna and Judy attribute their accomplishments to an incredible team of workers, some of who have been with them from day one. “As they say, it takes a village, and we are very thankful for ours,” Donna said. She adds, “We all work well together and are a family. We never imagined it would grow to what it is today, and we are blessed.” Judy concurs with her partner’s sentiments and they both acknowledge their gratitude for the support of friends and, most of all, family, in helping them to follow their dream. This thriving, nationwide, female-owned and operated Texarkana-based business is a testament to what can be achieved with a great idea, a lot of hard work and an excellent support system. Judy confidently offers this encouragement, “Don’t be afraid to chase your dream.”
For centuries, wine drinkers, thinkers and makers have looked for ways to improve the wine experience. This is how sparkling wine was created. Judging from the overwhelming reception and acclaim, Wine-A-Rita® mixes may be the best thing to happen to wine in over 300 years.
How to make a Wine-a-Rita®
All you need is your favorite Wine-A-Rita® mix, ice, a bottle of wine or ginger ale and a blender to create a fun and delicious frozen drink.
- Select your favorite Wine-A-Rita® mix
- In a blender, combine the flavor you selected with 12 fluid ounces of wine or ginger ale.
- Blend until dissolved.
- Fill blender with ice.
- Mix until smooth.