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Meet Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel of Bar & Garden in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel.

Lauren and Marissa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2012, Marissa and I were sitting at our dining room table congratulating ourselves on our dinner made from organic produce, grass-fed beef, etc. I looked at the glass of wine and my hand. “What about this?” I asked her. Out of curiosity mostly, we started looking into how alcoholic beverages and wine were made, and we were amazed. We started looking around the country for a store that sold only beverages that met certain standards: growing practices, use of artificial ingredients – and couldn’t find one. That’s when the idea for Bar & Garden was born. The garden part came from the fact that Marissa was a landscape designer prior to opening the store, and also to remind ourselves and our customers that when drinks don’t come from chemicals, they come from plants.

We opened in January of 2013 with only the two of us, selling only wine that is made from grapes grown without herbicides, pesticides or fungicides and other products that use no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. I had (and still have) a full-time corporate job – it was pretty crazy in the early going.

We grew quickly, and have been fortunate to have had excellent employees, friends and customers. Our part of Culver City has undergone a revitalization since we opened, and I like to think we have been a part of it. We’re continuing to grow and expand – we added a new partner in December of 2016. We have always and will always stay true to the standards we established in the beginning for the products we sell.

Has it been a smooth road?
LORD, NO. It has not been a smooth road.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Bar & Garden story. Tell us more about the business.
Bar & Garden is a small-batch liquor, craft beer and natural wine store that began as an idea that seemed kind of crazy: a liquor store that focused only on “natural” products. As I said before, Marissa and I researched the US and could find no wine or liquor store that focused solely on products that met specific standards, so, being insane, we decided to open one. We carry only wines which, at a minimum, use no herbicides, pesticides or fungicide in the vineyard; other products use no artificial color, flavor or preservatives. We focus on small producers; if there is an exception to this rule (such as Four Roses or Wild Turkey), it is for a specific reason – in this case, both of those whiskey producers use non-GMO corn. We also sell plants, barware, glassware, syrups, shrubs – anything you need to drink well.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think that people are beginning to realize that if you care about what you eat, that same philosophy must extend to what you drink. It all goes in the same body. Also, the quality of beverages has increased like mad – people are expecting more and getting it. I think the bar has been raised and will continue to rise. Cocktails are back – thank God! Although there is still more work needed here – don’t order an Old Fashioned at the Albany airport, for example. I speak from experience.

Pricing:

  • 75% of wines in our store are priced from $13-$30

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Bar & Garden

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