CHAPEL HILL — The West End Wine Bar has almost always been a dream in a making.
Twenty-seven years ago, a young Jared Resnick started jotting down ideas for a business after visiting a bar in Italy.
Bottles of wine and tapas were accents in an atmosphere filled with people talking, tasting and sharing, Resnick said.
“It wasn’t just about slamming home as much alcohol as you could get in your gullet,” Resnick, 44, said.
Over the years, Resnick continued to add ideas to his list.
“It got to the point, where it was almost like it had fermented enough and was getting ready to pop,” Resnick said.
So in 1997, with the help of research, a small venture capital group, and a push from his wife, Resnick and a friend transformed that old list of ideas into West End Wine Bar on Chapel Hill’s West Franklin Street.
“We opened it on a shoestring,” Resnick said. “We did all the work ourselves.”
At the time, West Franklin Street was kind of a “no-man’s-land,” and Chapel Hill bars consisted of music venues and beer joints, Resnick said.
“There really wasn’t anything like this in the Triangle area,” Resnick said.
Resnick, who bought out his West End business partner in 1999, learned early on, he said, that he needed to understand the nuts and bolts of running a business, such as payroll, taxes and insurance. So he turned to an attorney, his insurance agent, his accountant and other business owners.
“I know I lost money along the way because I wasn’t careful on how I was spending,” Resnick said. “I wasn’t a business owner yet, but I had a lot of great teachers.”
However, in 1998, Resnick made a hire at West End that would lead him to a new list of ideas and a second location.
Kevin Eastin, 41, quickly worked his way up from barback to manager and to eventual co-owner of one of Durham’s West End Wine Bar.
“It was very apparent early on that working with him was very, very different from anybody else that was working here,” Resnick said.
Since joining forces, Resnick and Eastin have developed a yin and yang type of business relationship. Resnick is creative, and Eastin keeps Resnick grounded while pushing him to take chances.
For example, Eastin pushed Resnick to expand the West End Wine Bar, and Resnick pushed Eastin to buy into its second location on West Main Street in Durham.
“You see it from a brand new point of view,” Eastin said of his co-ownership role. “You care ten times more about how sales were this night and how your employees are doing.”
Together, Resnick and Eastin also transformed West End’s basement into a dive bar called The Cellar. "I jokingly say it’s the two sides of Jared. There’s a part of me that loves to drink wine,” Resnick said about The Cellar. “There’s a part of me that loves a Miller High Life and a shot of Jack Daniels and a pool table.”
The business partners continue to expand and keep each other balanced. In 2011, Resnick opened an event space, West End Public, on West Franklin Street. Eastin manages the bars and event space while Resnick focuses on the business aspect of his various ventures, which also includes West End Billiards and West End Wine Tours.
“(Eastin) made a decision early on that he is going to be the one at the bar in the evening,” Resnick said. And Resnick chose to focus on the big picture, Resnick said. “It worked.”