Long-time Franklin resident Bard Quillman Jr. found his way into the wine and spirits business after 20-plus years in the banking industry—and a decades-old love for single malt scotch.
Today, the owner of Red Dog Wine and Spirits is channeling his interest into the shop that has one of the largest scotch selections in the Southeast. Boasting more than 400 single-malt options and 150 varieties of bourbon, Quillman can say he’s successfully parlayed an affinity into a profession.
“We put an emphasis on value and quality,” he said. “We are passionate about keeping our selections current and interesting.”
Launched in 2001, the Franklin shop is also considered to be one of the top craft beer retailers in the state: it carries more than 400 craft brews as well. And though there are several top-notch liquor stores in the county, the store has made its name on placing a strong emphasis on customer education and helping underline the finer points of each product.
“We know our products,” Quillman said. “We taste nearly everything that we bring in to the store, in order to give our customers educated opinions. That is what sets us apart: our knowledge and our belief in the products we carry.”
Another defining characteristic of the shop is its mascot: a red golden doodle aptly named Bacchus (the Greek god of wine) who greets customers that come from the likes of New York and California to pick up a bottle they can’t find anywhere else.
Through his banking endeavors, Quillman had gathered friends from all corners of the country; many of them now walk in the store regularly. And though he enjoyed a successful career, one day he came home to tell his wife Nancy that he was quitting his job as president of First Tennessee Bank Brentwood—and purchasing a wine shop.
Since that day in 2000, Quillman has become a voracious reader, devouring voluminous books about the master distillers whose traditions were handed down from monks hopping across the Irish Sea to Scotland, how the peat fires gently dried the malted barley, and how to detect the subtle differences between the various whiskies. He says he’s learned that the most important part of his business is keeping up with new products and trends through his readings.
“The best way for us to educate our customers is to stay educated ourselves,” he said. “We try to read relevant literature to stay up on the trends as well as discover new products. If you are going to be in a business you have to be all the way in that business. You have to be willing to go find and ask… you can’t wait for things to come to you.”
Because he’s passionate about staying on top of the industry and bringing his customers with him, the boutique wine shop holds free tastings three nights a week. For example, every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., it’s high gravity beers (those with alcohol contents higher than what is sold at the convenience store), and on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, there’s always a wine or spirit tasting going on.
“Education is key,” Quillman said. “We try to sample wines that people are not familiar with. We want it to be new to the customer, so they can expand their knowledge of wine and hopefully leave knowing something they didn’t know before they walked in.”
Right now, he’s sampling wines from Uraguay, a destination most people don’t think of as producing wine.
“It is fun to bring something in and to be the first people to have it. You are never the only one to carry a product, but you can definitely be the first, and that is something I strive for.”
Located at 1031 Riverside Drive, Red Dog is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. To learn more about the shop, visit www.reddogwineandspirits.com.