Timber Hill Winery is bringing the party to its customers.
With the COVID-19 pandemic minimizing social interaction, the Milton-based winery at 1223 E. Storrs Lake Road is getting creative to bring people together.
“We’ve been doing a lot of our events online still, so that’s been an exciting new change,” said owner Amanda Stefl. “A lot of our events used to bring a big crowd, but now we do game night every Friday night.”
The winery uses Facebook Live to stream events, and it alternates between a wine-based bingo game and “Family Feud”-style trivia.
Taking events online—times are posted ahead of time on the winery’s Facebook page and on its website—isn’t the only adaptation Stefl has made to her business during the pandemic. Just over a week ago, Timber Hill started a delivery service that is available in Rock County areas such as Milton, Edgerton and Janesville.
“That’s been going over really well,” Stefl said. “We’re having a couple deliveries every day.”
Delivery can be purchased on the website, but customers still can come in and buy wine in the store or call/message for pickup. Stefl said she would even consider continuing to offer delivery after the pandemic if the service remains popular.
Despite Timber Hill’s best efforts, the COVID-19 stopped a growing period for the business.
“Things have definitely changed,” Stefl said. “We were seeing a lot of growth in February and the first half of March. The last two weeks of March, things were different. But we’ve been trying to adapt as well as we can.”
Gail Nordlof, owner of Northleaf Winery at 232 S. Janesville St., also has adapted her business model.
Instead of being open five days a week, Northleaf is now open seven days a week. Orders also can be made online via the winery’s website or on Vinoshipper.com, by instant message or by email.
Like Timber Hill, Northleaf is delivering to cars outside the business—a feature put in place during the outbreak.
Still, to-go orders don’t bring in as much revenue as big gatherings at wineries.
“But we feel fortunate to be open at all,” Nordlof said. “Our goal is to be able to still be open when this is all over.”
Stefl and Nordlof say it has been local patrons who have helped their respective wineries stay open during this tough stretch.
“It means a lot,” Nordlof said. “Like I said, our core business is a lot of local people.
“We’ve had people come in and say, ‘I’ve never been here before, but I’m supporting local.’”
“It’s amazing how people are really showing their support and supporting local businesses,” Stefl added. “I knew we had such a great community before this, and a lot of them have stepped up and shown their support in multiple ways.
“It’s great encouragement as a small-business owner.”