Barrel 33 Brings Wine Shop and Restaurant to Poland

POLAND, Ohio – Brian Fry, owner of Barrel 33, is always on the hunt for bargain wines and interesting but little-known bottles.

It’s part of the business model for his popular restaurant, bar and wine shop in Howland – and also at his new location in a small plaza at Five Points.

The new site, at 9605 Springfield Road in Poland, near the traffic circle, was most recently a Coaches Burger Bar but has been vacant for about five years.

The new Five Points location, which opened in January, is much like the original although it’s a bit smaller.

It has a full bar, restaurant seating for 75, plus 25 more on the patio. With an open floor plan, the new Barrel 33 blends its retail section into the dining room, occupying one corner.

Wines that Fry has found and recommends are displayed in stacks in the retail section, as well as in coolers and on shelves. Wines can be purchased by the bottle for takeout or consumed at a table.

Barrel 33 also has a kitchen that offers burgers ($12-$13), pulled pork, flatbreads, salads, rice bowls, and dinner entrees such as Grilled Chicken Italiano ($16).

The bar features wines by the glass or bottle, cocktails and local craft beer.

Fry says Barrel 33 is a place where guests can discover new wines and foods that go best with them.  He is one of two sommeliers working at the restaurant; the other is Adam Zagotti.

Helping customers find their new favorite wine is their specialty. Fry and Zagotti talk wine with guests while they peruse the bottle selection together.

“We don’t have a printed wine list,” Fry says. “You walk through our wine list with a sommelier.”

Finding that perfect bottle is always a goal for Fry. “If you walk through the wine section, you’ll see what I mean,” he says. “We like to work with domestic producers from Washington, California, the Finger Lakes, some Ohio… But we have representation from all over the globe.”

For the Barrel 33 customer, another major benefit is price.

“All of our wines [in bottles] are priced at store retail, not restaurant retail, and that’s a huge difference,” he says. “If you want to drink it here, we just add a $6 corkage fee.”

Fry gave an example of how wine lovers can get a great deal.

“One example is our bottle of Camus, a very popular Napa Valley Cabernet,” he says. “It might be $175 to $225 on a restaurant wine list, but here it is $106. That is a considerable saving for a premium wine.”

Fry has a passion for wine and stays abreast of what’s new in the industry. He is also the owner of Valley Vino, a wine service company that partners with restaurants and country clubs to present dinners and tastings.

A 1987 graduate of Youngstown State University, he left the area for a corporate job early in his career but returned in 1996. He bought the Howland Barrel 33 in 2018.

At both of his restaurants, he stocks handpicked wine selections in large amounts.

“We utilize a method of wine retailing called case-stacking,” he says. “We buy three or four cases of individual wines that we strongly believe in. Oftentimes we also pour them by the glass at the bar and in the dining room.”

Currently, the store-restaurant has 36 wines stacked.

“We pour 20 of those wines by the glass, which provides a great chance try before you buy,” Fry says.

One of those bottles is the 2021 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, from Oregon. It retails for $49.99 per bottle and is sold at the bar for $13 a glass.

“The Drouhin is a cool story,” Fry says. “They’ve been making wine in Burgundy, France, since the 18th century and established their Oregon winery in 1987.”

He has visited both wineries.

“I spent an entire day with the Drouhin people when I studied in France for a month in 2015,” Fry says. “Visiting their winery, vineyard and the wine caves under the streets of Beaune was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And I had a great visit to their winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley as part of my second trip to the region in 2019.”

Barrel 33’s case stack inventory is evenly split between domestic and international, with 12 countries represented. The store also carries more than 50 additional wines on its shelves. These range from $12 to $150 and represent over 30 wine regions around the world.

At the core of both Barrel 33 locations is a unique business model, which includes a restaurant, a bar and a retail wine shop under one roof. Fry employs 31 over both stores.

With many restaurants still recovering from the pandemic and adjusting to the worker shortage and changing consumer preferences that favor takeout, why did Fry decide to expand at this time?

“The biggest reason is because I love this business,” he says. “I have tremendous passion for beer, wine, cocktails and food, both in helping people find things to enjoy at home, and to sit at the bar and dine with us.”

The pandemic taught him a lesson that he will not forget: A business must have multiple revenue streams to survive a downturn.

“[The retail shop] worked like insurance in Howland,” he says. “I couldn’t have people dine in for two months and then had takeout only for two more months. Having a mixed business model gave me enough confidence that we could pull off a second location.”

Shortly after opening, he did face a downturn caused by the closing of Western Reserve Road from mid-March to the end of April. “It affected us more than I expected,” Fry says.

The Five Points Barrel 33 is open Monday through Saturday; the bar and retail shop opens at noon, and the kitchen is open from 4-9 p.m. weekdays and 4-10 p.m. weekends. The bar stays open after the kitchen closes.

Fry is attempting to get a liquor license so that he can also open on Sundays. In November, Springfield Township voters will decide on a ballot issue that would permit Sunday sales.

If it passes, Fry intends to start serving Sunday brunch. “It’s one of the most popular things we do in Howland and I’m looking forward to doing it here.”

Pictured at top: The bar and dining room of Barrel 33 near Poland. Owner Brian Fry is behind the bar. The retail wine shop can be seen at rear.