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One Woman's Journey From North Fork Winery To New Business

Her North Fork lessons gave the young entrepreneur courage to reach for a dream.

Photo Credit: Larrin Gerard
Photo Credit: Larrin Gerard
This past summer, Larrin Gerard was a well known face on the North Fork. 

Gerard not only helped launch the opening of Coffee Pot Cellars and Blossom Meadow Honey in Cutchogue, but was also seen singing around the area.  And now Gerard said the lessons she learned on the North Fork helped inspire her to launch her own new business, Nola's Vintique, in Moriches.

Gerard, who met winemaker Adam Suprenant and Laura Khlare while she was working at Empire State Cellars in Tanger, was moved by their passion and, when the pair decided to open the tasting room and honey retail space, she signed on as tasting room manager.

"They were building from the ground up," Gerard said. "Coffee Pot Cellars wines were a local favorite. It had been on the shelves of select wine stores and in restaurants for some time, but the tasting room was completely new to the brand."

She added, "Laura was a big inspiration to me. She is a local beekeeper and her passion for her bees and what she was doing each day was incredibly inspiring. She kept telling me that I had 'an eye for things.' I thought I was just arranging honey; she saw it as something completely different — she said that I made her products shine."

While working in Cutchogue, Gerard found herself popping in to visit the owner, Gene Mott, of Antiques and Old Lace. 

"I had always loved antiques and was always on the hunt.  Little did I know that Laura's constant encouragement in telling me that I had a talent for arranging and merchandising would meld with my love of old and antique things. "

When Gerard stumbled upon Barntique Village in Moriches and found a space for rent, her dream took shape.

"I thought to myself, 'I have some antiques I could unload, why not make a business out of this?' If I could learn all about wine in just one year, I finally had the confidence that I could take on anything."

Her father, Gerard said, left a lifelong legacy to his daughter. "All I could think of was one of the last conversations I had with my father before he passed away. 'If not now, then when?' he had said. I had always loved antiques and collected them. I felt like I owed it to myself and him, to try. He had worked so hard his whole life to give me everything I wanted. Why not at least try to show him he didn't work his whole life in vain?"

Born with the mind of an entrepreneur, Gerard said she's been a jack of all trades, from dog walker to greeting card and jewelry designer, to barista and musician — and, of course, a tasting room manager on the North Fork.

"But nothing creative has stuck with me and been on my mind as constantly as this business has," she said.

Adopted by her grandparents, Gerard grew up around antique furniture, and has long been entranced by the belief that every piece has a story to tell.

"I didn't just grow up around older things, I experienced traditions my peers did not. My mother loved to put my hair in rag curls, a simple tradition where you take cut up scrap material and wind it around strands of hair. When set, you would sleep on it and when you awoke, you would have curls like Goldilocks. My childhood included older music, older traditions and tons of antiques."

Gerard said her mother Nola also had a penchant for antiquing. "I have a real appreciation for antique pieces and the stories they can tell."

And so Gerard leapt feet first into her future. "I opened Nola's Vintique because of a dream. A dream of doing something by myself, for myself, that meant something to me. I named the business Nola's Vintique because I told my mother I had always wanted to name a child after her. This was, of course, when I was a child and before she passed away when I was 15."

Her business, Gerard said, "is a marrying of my mom's aesthetic taste and my nod still to wine country."

Looking ahead, she hopes to weave her wine country experiences into her business, and is currently converting a vintage desk into a wine rack.

Now that she's sold her own vintage pieces, Gerard has expanded, learning to "distress" furniture with Annie Sloan chalk paint.

"I am by no means an expert yet, but by bringing new life to these pieces I feel like I am restoring some semblance to the world. We live in such a disposable universe. It feels so good to bring a piece back to life and see someone take it home and love it, even more than I do. That is absolutely the most rewarding part of this business. Every piece has a story and it deserves to be told."

Gerard, who lives in Mt. Sinai, said opening a new business has had its share of challenges. "Namely that I decided to open my business in October. This time of the year is the most difficult for most businesses, unless you sell oil. But my father was a gambling sort of guy. I can't help but hear him say, 'If not now, then when?'"

Gerard advises others with a dream to follow their hearts, using Facebook, Kickstarter, or whatever other means to make those dreams reality.

"Never give up," she said. "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Larrin said she will still be singing, accompanied by her husband Derek Gerard, at local North Fork venues including Lieb Cellars, Laurel Lake Vineyards and A Lure. To check out their schedule, click here.

The North Fork, Gerard said, gave her wings to fly. "I absolutely adore wine country. I have met so many wonderful, awesome, generous people. My North Fork experience taught me how to be humble, how to not get caught up in the mess of who's who and whats going on,  and that what is most important is what we, as individuals, care about."

Workign with Suprenant and Khlare "made me who I am today."

Observing their courage, as well as that of her friend Lauri Spitz from Moustache Brewery, Gerard said, led her to hold true to a quote often recited by a friend, by Jack Kerouac:

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them . . . Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Alice Sidor December 16, 2013 at 06:01 PM
Love This Larrin. Can't wait for you to see the antiques I have.
Claire Silver December 17, 2013 at 10:12 AM
Congratulations Larrin!
Laura Klahre December 17, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Your Nola's Vintique facebook and NolasVintique Etsy.com pages are just as wonderful as your store! Enables me to shop from my computer :) I just favorited you through my BlossomMeadow Etsy Page so will be easier to keep tabs on your new finds. Congrats Larrin!

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