Andrea Hillsey is planning to open what she hopes will be "the indie wine shop in Madison."
Her plan is to open Square Wine Company at 5 N. Pinckney St., by the time Concerts on the Square start in late June.
The space was formerly home to the gift, card and wine shop Savoir Faire.
Square Wine Company will be primarily retail, but Hillsey is seeking the same type of liquor license some restaurants have so she can do weekly tastings with generous pours from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday nights.
"I'm looking forward to doing food and wine together," she said.
"For me, wine is almost an extension of a food group. I don't usually go home at the end of the day and have a glass of wine," she said. "I'll usually have wine with food, so I'm looking at pairing up with local restaurants and farmers to get together and explore that."
Hillsey will not be serving food in her store, but plans to collaborate with stores like Fromagination, either by going there to pour wine, or having them bring cheeses in to pair with her wines.
She also is talking to the owners of Jordandal Farms to do wine pairings with their farm dinners.
Hillsey is originally from Detroit, but moved to Madison in 2006 when her partner took a job at UW-Madison. She left in 2009 to go to graduate school in Miami and moved back to Madison about a year ago.
Her background is in restaurants and wine retail and she is awaiting the results of her sommelier certification.
When she was in Miami she worked at a small retail wine shop, which is what she'd like to duplicate in Madison.
The emphasis of the store is going to be on smaller growers, but in the classic wine regions.
"It's a pretty small grass-roots operation," Hillsey said. Besides herself, she plans to have one other part-time employee.
"For me, the big thing is selling people wine that they can feel happy about drinking and buying and know that they are either supporting a small family or a small group of people making the wine as opposed to the really big almost commodity wine that is out there," she said.
Hillsey said that while the local food and beer scenes are strong in Madison, the city is deficient in its wine options.
"I just don't know that people have been able to experience or have the opportunity to explore wine — not exactly local wine, because I'm not crazy about local wine, but kind of empowering people with more knowledge about wine."
Talula to close
After a four-year run, Talula, at 802 Atlas Ave., is calling it quits.
"We decided over the weekend that we weren't making it," said co-owner Keith Blew.
Part of the restaurant's downfall was the down economy, he said. "I don't know how rough it is for anyone else. I don't get out of the big, pink castle here. I've been having a rough year."
The restaurant's last day will be June 30.
Talula is known for its freshly made food and eclectic art and music, he said.
Blew, who owns the restaurant with Mary Reed and before Talula was co-owner of Fyfe's Corner Bistro for 14 years, said he has no idea what he is going to be doing next. "I haven't even given it a thought."
The timing seemed right with the restaurant's liquor license coming up for renewal. "We can't really lose any more money," he said.
Shish Cafe dealing with construction
Marcia Heidenreich, the manager at Shish Cafe, 5510 University Ave., estimates that business is down about 25 percent because of the construction on University Avenue.
Reconstruction on University Avenue between Segoe Road and Allen Boulevard began March 19 will continue through the end of October.
"The first week was horrible, but then people started supporting us," Heidenreich said.
The Middle Eastern restaurant has experienced many problems since construction began: lost power, lost water and lost telephone lines, she said.
Heidenreich said customers can access the Shish through Shorewood Hills.
"People should not be afraid of coming because we're open," she said.
Palmyra back to regular hours
In a related note, the Shish's sister restaurant, Palmyra, which opened last summer in Middleton Hills, was open sporadically in the past couple of weeks due to staffing shortages at both Palmyra and Shish Cafe.
Palmyra employees went and helped out at the Shish, Heidenreich said.
"We decided to keep the bigger of the two restaurants open," she said.
Palmyra is now back to regular lunch and dinner hours.