Rock Perks Spotlight: GRNoir Wine & Jazz Bar
By Mason Nichols
Nearly two decades ago, Shatawn and Nadia Brigham envisioned crafting a business together that would fill a need in Grand Rapids. Together, they realized that the city did not have a dedicated space for wine and jazz (which coincidentally go quite well together). Nadia also had a dream about the name being “GRNoir.” According to Shatawn, the pair wasn’t quite sure what the name meant, but once they got the project off the ground, they knew GRNoir Wine & Jazz Bar would be perfect – both as a name and as a gathering place for Grand Rapids residents.
Shatawn and Nadia worked diligently to ensure a successful launch by performing extensive research on their products, talking to local wine businesses and meeting with local jazz artists. Shatawn also decided to enroll in The Court of Master Sommeliers to obtain Level 1 Sommelier credentials. Today, the result is a joyous place in downtown Grand Rapids that is welcoming, entertaining and just plain fun. We sat down with Shatawn, co-owner, to learn more about GRNoir and everything that makes his business so great.
What makes GRNoir Wine & Jazz different from competitors?
We’re different because we are the first and only Black-owned wine and jazz bar in Grand Rapids. We also offer live jazz on three out of the four nights we are open along with 40 wines in our wine preservation system. This allows us to review data about how long a wine has been in the system, how much has sold and who sold it. We can also measure accurate pours, by 1 ounce, 3 ounces, 5 ounces and even flights.
What’s your favorite thing about operating a business in Grand Rapids?
Opening with my wife. We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old and will be celebrating 24 years of marriage this October. I’m originally from Benton Harbor and she is from Chicago. We moved to GR in ‘95 to attend Grand Valley State University and we’ve remained here since. The city has grown in so many ways; however, there remains much work to be done.
In 2021, we shouldn’t be using the phrase, “the first Black …” This must change. GR has so many talented people who have great ideas – they just need the opportunities that are afforded to others. With that being said, we are grateful to the entire city and surrounding cities as well as out of towners for their support. GR loves to support local businesses, and that means a lot to us.
What’s the most satisfying part about serving your customers and the community?
When we have repeat customers who return and say they brought a friend or family member with them because they had such a great time. It’s also exciting to engage with customers who visit but are intimidated because they don’t know anything about wine. We counter this by telling customers that they’ve come to the right place.
GRNoir offers a no judgment zone. To us, it doesn’t matter if someone has never tasted wine or if that person is a master sommelier – we want everyone to feel welcome and free to be themselves. Some of the best conversations I’ve had are with customers who are new to wine. When they leave, they walk away knowing a little bit more than they did when they arrived.
Why did you join the Rock Perks program? What benefits has it brought to your business and your customers?
We joined Rock Perks because we believe it’s an awesome partnership. It’s a way for us to show our appreciation to Rockford and all they’ve done to support GRNoir. Since joining the program, we have seen more individuals associated with Rockford visit us.
What’s on the horizon for GRNoir?
We have a few things that are coming soon. It’s too early to announce anything right now, but we’re excited about it and believe the community will be too!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your business?
Thank you for the opportunity to share a piece of GRNoir. We appreciate all the support Rockford and the community has shown us thus far.