LUSBY, Md. – Even though neither of them were born in the local area, Mike and Carolyn Hart consider Lusby their home. Mike, who you may know as one of the Calvert County Commissioners, moved here when he was six years old. Carolyn didn’t make it to Lusby until she was 18. Their paths eventually crossed 30 years ago and they have been a dynamic duo ever since. Now, the couple owns two businesses right in the heart of Lusby and continues to make a lasting impact in the community they love.
For 14 years, Mike and Carolyn have owned and operated Patuxent Wine & Spirits, which is located in the Lusby Commons Shopping Center, the same shopping center as Giant.
“When we started the business we wanted to focus on education and customer service. We want to be the place people go to when they have questions, need something picked out or ordered,” the pair told The BayNet. “Mike had worked for three major alcohol distributors and Carolyn got her Wine and Spirits Education Level 2 Certificate from the Capital Wine School in DC, Napa Valley Certification from the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and recently a California Wine Specialist Certificate. We are constantly researching what is new and changing in our industry. When you come to our store, it’s our goal to give you the best customer service possible. We’re here to help with questions, make selections, and even help you carry it out to your car if it’s too much.”
When they started the business, it didn’t take long for Mike and Carolyn to find out the immense challenges that this venture would hold. However, with Mike’s prior experience running the distribution business, they were finally able to overcome the challenges, and things eventually started to even out.
“There was a vacancy in a brand new shopping center with Giant…. We went for it. Anyone that starts a business knows, it’s no joke,” the pair said. “It takes everything. We started with putting our own house up for collateral to get a business loan, to Mike working seven days a week for the first two years because we couldn’t afford employees, to hiring employees, expanding into the space next door, and recently expanding to the space that is now Barrel 9.”
After overcoming the many obstacles, the pair were determined to make Patuxent Wine & Spirits the best it could possibly be.
“There is literally a liquor store on each corner by us, what makes us different is our customer service, selection, and our prices. Folks refer to us as the ‘nice’ liquor store lol. This store is a reflection of us. We and our employees take pride in what the store looks like.”
With the success of Patuxent Wine & Spirits, along with the drive and passion the pair have to continue to create amazing resources for the community when it comes to entertainment and leisure, the pair finally opened their insanely popular Barrel 9 expansion in July of 2022.
“Barrel 9 is a specialty bar. It’s a place to discover something new. We offer cocktails, whiskey, and wine with small plates. We recently had a local food blogger describe us as a place to ‘savor.’ Several years ago we started offering these Wine and Food Pairing tastings inside the liquor store that folks loved,” the pair stated. “We would clear out the floor, bring in pop-up tables, and speakers, and would travel down to talk about products and we even had a chef come in! Gwyn Novak from No Thyme to Cook cooking school would create these amazing petite cuisines paired with the products folks were learning about. There are so many products available that are amazing and folks just don’t know about them, or there isn’t enough of it for most to buy it, and that is what we focus on at Barrel 9. Unique items.”
Barrel 9 is all about offering that unique experience, especially with their amazing 12-bottle Self Serve Wine Machine! The machine offers three different-sized pours for folks to enjoy bottles you would never be able to try by the glass.
“One of the bottles we currently have on the machine was No. 6 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2022 list,” Carolyn explained. “Our other by-the-glass program offers 31 unique wines for folks to enjoy. Come in and tell us what varietal you typically try and we’ll suggest something new. Are you a whiskey fan? We consistently have many unique bottles available in our bar. From limited or allocated bottles available by the ounce to just everyday hidden gems that get overlooked to whiskey flights, there is always something new. Cocktails? Yes, we have that too. Our most popular one is a smoked Old Fashioned made with Old Forester 86 proof and we just launched our new seasonal menu. Hungry? I can’t forget to mention the food. The unique and amazing food. Our chef has a following – People come in every week to try his specials. We offer things like charcuterie, soups, dips, salads, flatbreads, kabobs, and deviled eggs…. He prepares everything in-house so there is always something new but I will warn you … specials do sell out so we always tell folks not to wait to get something.”
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