Editor’s Note: Tahoe Stories started out as a web-only column. But we loved it so much, and it proved to be so popular with readers, that we have moved it to print and have a new writer, Marianne M. Porter.
Christa Finn and Dean Schaecher, proprietors of the Pour House wine shop and tasting bar on Jibboom Street in downtown Truckee, opened the door to their snug establishment in March 2005, just one month before the birth of their son, Finn — a brave endeavor since they also had a three-year-old daughter, Chloe. Now their children are 10 and seven, with an eighth birthday around the corner for both Finn and the Pour House.
Finn and Schaecher are the epitome of happy campers. They smile wide, love their customers, many of whom are faithful locals, and provide a place for people to feel welcome and sit and chat, like they’re having a visit to a friend’s house.
MI: How did you two end up in Truckee?
CF: Dean was integral in my coming up here. We met in Moab, and I followed him home. I was a camping tour guide driving around the country and I happened to be in Moab for two nights. Dean was mountain biking.
DS: I was there on vacation for a week, and we met in the only bar in town. I came here after college, 25 or 30 years ago. I came up for a summer and that was the end of that. This place has a way of reeling you in. You think, “This is really nice. Now if I can just make it work, this is the ticket.”
MI: Why did you decide to open a wine bar?
CF: For Dean it was one of those natural progressions. As a young man he worked his way up through all sorts of fine dining options from Christy Hill to Glissandi to Truffula, and some resorts in Reno.
I started off working in restaurants too. I worked at Wolfdale’s and Glissandi, and then on the opening staff at Dragonfly. We thought about opening a restaurant but came to our senses. We figured we’d just ditch the food and do the wine because that’s what we like to do anyway.
MI: The space you have is unique and off the beaten track. How has it worked out?
CF: It’s been great. The other half of the building was a hair salon when we moved in. When they moved out about four years ago we took over the space. It makes people happy to have found this little wine shop in Truckee that locals go to. Our rent is easier to manage and it’s less up and down than on the main drag. We have a little more consistency here.
DS: We wanted to attract locals, and locals have an inherent sense of value because it’s the only way you can survive. They have rewarded us with their support. They turn their second-home neighbors into happy customers as well.
MI: Are there any passions you have in the community that you like to support?
CF: The Truckee Watershed Council. We’ve been supportive of them for years. We do stream monitoring as well. The environment is one of our big things, and again that’s why we live up here. We like the natural world. And the seniors too. I don’t know how we got focused on them, but they’re definitely one of our regular beneficiaries. I would like to grow old here one day, and if I need help I want somebody to help me. We’ve also worked with Project MANA on their food distribution days. I’ve had people at the bar talk to me and say we don’t have hungry people here, and I say, “Yeah, we do.”
DS: It’s hard to tell, but there are a lot of people who just barely, barely scrape by.
MI: How did you survive the economic dip?
CF: When we opened we started with low expectations and we stayed little, which is counterintuitive to what we think of as American business. That’s why we’re here and that’s what we were looking for. We just wanted to be able to make a living, have a home in Tahoe, be surrounded by the area we love, and do the things we like to do. Our kids are happy up here and we’re happy having them up here. It’s a great environment. We don’t have payroll either, which has obviously helped us. It’s just Dean and me. The monthly influx of money from our wine club is very helpful too.
MI: What compromises have you made to make it work in Tahoe?
DS: All used ski equipment. Old cars. There have been many compromises, but we like what this affords us. We like the lifestyle, and the sacrifices are worth it. We don’t go out. We don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. We spend a lot of time with our kids, which we like. Almost every aspect of life is a compromise, but we like the payback.
MI: Who would you recommend for my next interview?
CF: I’d say this is the downside of having a small business and making it through the recession. We don’t get out much.
DS: How about Christy Hill?
CF: Or Douglas Dale. He’s perennial, of course.
~ Douglas Dale of Tahoe City’s Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique will be featured in the next Tahoe Stories column. Comment on this column below.