On the Line: Mark and Angela Dunton of District Wine, Part Two
A couple who drinks together . . .
Photo by William Vo
Read our interview with Mark and Angela of District Wine, part one. And now, on to part two . . .
What prompted the idea to open the business? Angela Dunton: Both of our parents are independent business owners, and Mark and I always wanted to work for ourselves. We both had a passion for wine, craft beer and people. When we me, we started talking and brainstorming, and that was the seed for District Wine. We lived in the neighborhood, and years before we had a solid idea of the business. We were sitting across the street from 144 Linden in the coffee shop, saw the "For Lease" sign, and thought, "That would be a perfect spot for something."
What's your favorite childhood memory? Mark Dunton: Traveling with my family of six in a small minivan from Minnesota to New Jersey, and having my dad turn around two minutes in, saying, "You all are too rowdy-- No talking 'til we get there." That memory never fails to put a smile on my face and think how amazing it was that we did that trip more than once.
Hardest lesson you've learned? M.D.: To be confident in our decisions and business model we created. It is easy to get distracted by all the advice, ideas, criticisms and concepts that come your way through family, friends and acquaintances. We didn't realize how difficult it would be to strike a balance with being true to your vision, but also open and flexible enough to take that criticism and advice to make necessary changes. Last song playing on the radio: A.D.: Both Mark and I are closet folk and bluegrass fans, so mostly it involved a fiddle or banjo.
How did you two meet? A.D.: We met at a Drum corp show at Riverside City College. We were lucky enough to have great friends that took it upon themselves to put us in the same place at the same time. It only took the first five minute conversation to know there was something different with this one.
What were you up to five years ago? M.D.: We were finishing up construction and anxiously awaiting the sign off on our permits. A very nerve-wracking time.
Do you have any skills that are not food-related? Both: Harmonica, juggling, sailing, knitting and golf.
Last book read; how was it? A.D.: The last book I read was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I found it riveting. You had to abandon your traditional view of what a narrative should be and surrender yourself to the endless cycle of the main character's many restarts of a difficult life playing out during WWII. Where did you grow up? A.D.: Mark grew up in a small town of 1,200 people in New Richland, Minnesota. He always had a love for California and to be near the beach. He would come out to visit his older brother who lived in Irvine every spring break. After leaving his band director job at Waconia High School, he packed everything he could into his Saturn and drove cross-country to California with only the promise of a three month job.
When you're not at work, what are you doing? A.D.: Mark is usually out on the golf course. I am reading in the backyard , and we are trying to spend quality time together not talking about work.
Are you superstitious? A.D.: We are not overly superstitious, but we both take part in certain rituals to keep us grounded and remind us not to take anything for granted. We still knock on wood when things go well, throw salt over our shoulders (just in case), and an occasional saging of the wine bar never hurts.
You come from design and teaching backgrounds. How does this influence the business? A.D.: I think many of our past experiences come into play on a daily basis. My design background comes into play every time we set up for a new group or party, design new menus or play with a new plating idea. It gave me an eye for detail, atmosphere, proportion and scale that I find invaluable.
Mark's teaching and music background comes into play not only in the music we play but how he interacts with people. He has a knack for reading different people and knowing what they need at the moment to have the best possible experience. Teaching also gave him great multi-tasking skills, where he learned to balance being engaging and outgoing, business-minded and efficient, as well as contemplative to develop strategies.
Last thing you looked up online: A.D.: The Golf Academy app-- tips and ways to lower your golf average.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business? M.D.: Sailing around the world with the love of my life, or on the professional golf tour-- you were asking about fantasies, right?
District Wine is located at 144 Linden Ave, Long Beach, (562) 612-0411; www.districtwine.com.
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