WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Does the thought of relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book appeal to you? If so, there’s a place for you in downtown Washington.

Nestled on the city’s vibrant Main Street, Wine and Words and Gourmet caters to everyone from beginners to the most seasoned wine enthusiasts. Mary Mehlich has owned the business for about five years, but the story of Wine and Words goes beyond that.

James McKelvey and Yvonne Sedgwick opened the original Wine & Words in April 2002 in Belhaven.

“I was his wine consultant,” Mehlich said. “He saw a need for a wine shop to open in Washington. And he talked me into coming here and opening a wine shop for him. It was already open, but he talked me into coming in and managing and helping him build the business.

“So I did. I worked with him for about six years. And the economy kind of took a turn for the worse. They sold their restaurant and needed to come in and take over the wine shop for themselves, with the knowledge that I wanted to buy it when they were ready. And that happened pretty quickly. So I bought it from them, and I’ve had it for five years now.”

Located at 220 W. Main St. in Washington, Wine and Words features a selection of wine, beer, cheese and a variety of accessories related to those products. In 2021, the store expanded to include a wine bar next door.

For Mehlich, that fulfilled a dream that started when she was traveling.

“I was actually working in aviation. I worked as a contractor for the U.S. government, and traveled internationally” Mehlich said. “And the concept for the wine bar came from me visiting a place in Cambridge, England, Victorian-style, and just very comfortable, very easy.

“I used to go there and drink wine and read when I had a chance, downtime. And that was the idea behind this, just the comfort of it and how accommodating it felt to be able to sit and relax and have a glass of wine.”

The Victorian theme is evident in the wine bar’s decor.

The Wine and Words wine bar opened in 2021. (Brandon Tester / WNCT photo)

“A lot of it belongs to my husband and myself through our families,” Mehlich said. “And then I went to a few estate sales. I had a customer sell me his parents’ stuff from Italy, which is really beautiful. But a lot of it is stuff I’ve collected over the years or that came down through our families.”

The wine bar is able to host a wide variety of events, from private parties to book club meetings to live music. It also has an assortment of books available for those looking to browse through some literature while they enjoy their wine.

The business brings in traffic from an area that has seen remarkable growth and improvements resulting largely from the city’s streetscape project that ended in 2020.

“I feel like Washington is becoming a destination spot,” Mehlich said. “And by virtue of that, I see a lot of people from all over the state and out of the state. And I see repeat customers. Once they come to Washington and see how friendly everybody is, and we have a lot of unique shops, we have really good restaurants, we have breweries, have the wine bar and the wine shop — they bring their family and friends back.”

Watch the video above to learn more about Wine and Words.