Ashlea Bollendorf was working in her husband’s dental office in Garner with plans to become a dentist herself when she had a change of heart.
“We have always been passionate about beer,” she said. “Our first date was at Red Oak Brewery, and all our travels are about beer.
“I thought I could do this for less money and more fun. And unlike at a dentist’s office, people would enjoy coming to see me.”
In June, 19 months after her initial brainstorm, Bollendorf and her husband, Alex, opened Neighborhood Bottle Shop in Cary’s Shoppes of Kildaire. Stocked with more than 300 craft beers and a 40-foot cooler, the store builds on a growing demand for full flavors.
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Creating a business plan was difficult, she said.
“I never imagined what it would take to work it out,” she said. “We wanted to do it ourselves and not with partners.”
She brought in Sean Pratt as a beer consultant and envisioned a concept different from other bottle shops. With a bar in the back and plenty of tables for seating, customers are invited to try out new beers before taking them home.
“You can bring food from one of the restaurants nearby and eat here,” Pratt said.
Because Neighborhood only serves drinks, dogs are welcome to join their owners in the store.
“Bring your food and your families,” Pratt said.
The eight beers on draft are constantly rotating, Pratt said.
“We still get people who aren’t aware of what’s out there. We let them taste it and then they can take it home.”
Bollendorf insists that for the most part, there’s a beer for everyone.
“That’s the most fun part,” she said. “When we have someone come in saying they don’t drink beer and we find something they like.”
The selections are as varied as the customers. A section filled with North Carolina beers is surrounded by bottles from around the globe.
“People like things that taste good,” Pratt said.
He noted that the shop is able to handle large events, including weddings and corporate parties.
“With the cooler space, we can have everything prepared.”
Bollendorf wants Neighborhood Bottle Shop to live up to its name.
“I want this to be a community,” she said.
Cary suited her vision.
“It’s a completely different feeling in Cary than in Raleigh,” she said. “It’s what attracted us.
“We’re starting to recognize people. I expected our customers to be mostly people in their 20s and 30s but it’s not just a certain demographic. We see all ages. … People don’t always want to go to a bar, but they want a good beer.”
She is happy with her career move.
“I knew this would be a lot of fun, but it’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be,” she said. “I wake up in the morning and can’t wait to get to work.
“It’s like not going to work. It’s a good life.”
About Neighborhood Bottle Shop
Location: 1341 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary
Contact: 919-694-5323 or www.neighborhoodbottleshop.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; noon-6 p.m., Sunday