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Community Highlights: Meet Julie & Justin Fischer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie & Justin Fischer.

Hi Julie & Justin, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
We are a husband and wife team, Justin and Julie, who moved from Los Angeles to Paso Robles in 2018 with the goal of investing in the community, setting down roots, and pursuing our passion for wine and food. We were married in Paso Robles in 2016. We were living in LA at the time but fell in love with Paso Robles during our wedding planning process and knew we wanted to move here full time. Not knowing exactly what that would look like, we believed we had to follow our hearts to pursue our passions. In 2018, we took a leap of faith that this was the right path for us, loaded our two cats in a Uhaul, and moved to Paso Robles with our dream as our guide; to open a family business, where Justin could focus on cooking the food he loves, and Julie could curate a small bottle shop and wine by the glass list to showcase the local wines we love.

Shortly after our move, we were blessed with our miracle baby, our daughter Georgia Grace. Julie was a successful retail buyer for Macy’s and Ross Stores for 15 years. She traveled extensively to visit domestic and international markets to buy products for stores nationwide. After moving to Paso Robles, she worked at Halter Ranch Vineyard for 18 months and learned first-hand about wine sales, production, the importance of sustainable farming, as well as met some incredible people that will be lifelong friends. Justin started his career in the finance industry. After ten years, he left to pursue his passion for food and attended cooking school in Culver City. In 2017 he got his first culinary job in Atwater Village at a local farm-to-table restaurant where he quickly fell in love with sourcing, preparing, and serving food to guests.

After moving to Paso Robles, Justin continued his journey in the kitchen at Cello Restaurant at Allegretto, The Restaurant at JUSTIN, and helped open the JUSTIN Downtown Tasting Room. Justin believes that the best food comes from fresh ingredients simply prepared. Together we are created the Paso Robles Wine Merchant to celebrate and support local farms and winemakers.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We opened the Paso Robles Wine Merchant in the newly constructed Paso Market Walk on August 1st. It was probably the strangest time to open, during the height of a pandemic, and with restrictions on indoor dining. Nevertheless, we were grateful to have the doors open and humbled by the support from the community. During the initial quarantine period of COVID-19, we completely changed the menu we would open with. It became very clear our most important goal was to help support the local winemakers and farmers in our community. We opened with all locally sourced food and wines, focused on sustainably farmed, small distribution, and attention to many women winemakers as well.

In addition, we were very conscious of pricing and wanted the wines to be fun and accessibly priced during such a difficult time in the economy. So we matched winery pricing on all bottles instead of the typical markups many restaurants and bars take. Our average retail being $35 for a bottle of wine in the shop and over 20 wines by the glass ranging between $12-$16. We also had to pivot our initial in-dining and bar seating plan to a completely to-go model. With our core value and focus on sustainability, we sourced eco-friendly utensils and packaging, re-thinking everything from re-usable wine tumblers, growlers, canvas gift bags, etc.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Paso Robles Wine Merchant?
We focus on all sourcing locally with an emphasis on sustainability. Creating seasonal food menu items using farm-fresh ingredients simply prepared. With over 260 wineries in Paso Robles, we seek sustainably farmed, low-intervention, terroir driven wines to offer in our shop. We carry many winemakers’ own personal, hand-crafted wines that are too small and limited distribution to have a Tasting Room or other retail outlet, and we partner with wineries who share our values to get winery exclusive and special library wines.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
There’s a Chris Stapleton song “Starting Over” whose lyrics really speak to us and our story: “This might not be an easy time There’s rivers to cross and hills to climb Some days we might fall apart And some nights might feel cold and dark When nobody wins afraid of losing And the hard roads are the ones worth choosing Someday we’ll look back and smile And know it was worth every mile” We believe taking educated, calculated risks is sometimes necessary to fulfill a dream. We both left our comfortable corporate jobs in LA and completely started over in our careers, and when we felt ready, we invested our savings into starting our own family business. It was a calculated risk though that we planned for years. We studied the real-estate market for a full year in Paso Robles before buying our house. We waited until we found the right partnership for our business lease at the Paso Robles Market Walk, a collective of small businesses, versus opening our own brick and mortar shop to start. We have met so many winemakers here who have had to take similar risks to start making their wines. Paso Robles is full of inspiring stories and the community here really supports entrepreneurs.

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Katie Hoss Photo

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