Nearly every night, you’ll find Della Viti, the Downtown Ames wine bar, full of both seasoned and novice wine connoisseurs. By its nature, understanding wine can be a bit complicated. Since 2014, owner Beth DeVries has made it her purpose to make wine accessible to understand and enjoy. As a result, she has built a loyal customer base for her business that is continuing to expand.
DeVries’ path to wine is not traditional. In fact, she admits that she knew very little about wine when she took over Della Viti. She is a trained research scientist with a degree in genetics from Iowa State University. For 13 years, she worked in product development of proteins and helped scale her research for business application. She was laid off during a corporate restructuring in 2013, which eventually launched her ownership in Della Viti. Today, she takes her scientific background and applies it to wine.
Della Viti is a self-service wine bar, an anomaly in the hospitality industry. The business model is convenient for customers as it allows them to sample smaller portions at a time in order to develop their palate. “My customers are able to experiment with different types of wine. They don’t need to purchase a full glass and this allows them to understand what they really like,” said DeVries.
DeVries works with eight distributors that bring in wine from across the world. On average, she estimates that she tastes fifteen to thirty different wines a week, which equates to sampling over 10,000 different wines over the past eight years. Like a scientist, she takes detailed notes of each one, and these notes help make purchasing decisions. She brings in over 500 cases a year.
When the wine enters Della Viti, they are organized for the customer by taste profile. For the consumer, when they find a profile that they enjoy; a California cabernet, for example, a similarly profiled wine is placed in the rack next to it, helping the customer with their next tasting.
“I think our customers enjoy finding out what they like and then they are equipped to branch out and explore.” When they do find the wine they love, a bottle can be purchased and taken home for enjoyment with family and friends.
Through her business, DeVries is always seeking ways to give back to the community that has supported her. Earlier this year, the Iowa Restaurant Association honored DeVries with the Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropy award, an honor that recognizes her charitable giving and volunteering. DeVries has donated wine to the Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Hope Gala, put together gift packages for the annual Boys & Girls Clubs gala, organized 5K charity runs, and regularly offers Della Viti as a meeting location to 100 Women Who Care, a local philanthropy group.
As her business evolved, DeVries has always had the ability to adjust. The pandemic was a prime example of this flexibility when she quickly pivoted to an online retail store. She continually embraces social media trends and has expanded her offerings at Della Viti to include food options. Her next venture will expand her presence on Main Street as she is preparing to open another business.
Della Viti is located at 323 Main Street.
This story is also featured in Issue 01 of Traction, a quarterly publication from the Ames Chamber of Commerce.
For 37 years, Frank Randall was a prominent figure in the Iowa State Athletics Department. Today, he is the owner of The Salon, a full-service hair salon located in the heart of Downtown Ames.
Randall arrived in Ames in 1970 as Iowa State University’s head athletic trainer where he worked with every athletic team. At the time, he had a host of responsibilities that included strength and conditioning testing, gameday treatments, and organizing travel plans. He was a pioneer in athletic injury prevention and helped develop a bilateral knee brace to help reduce injury that continues to be used by many schools. Additionally, Randall helped change the football helmet to a more rounded contour, which disperses the outside force rather than absorbing the force, helping to reduce head injuries.
In 1998, Randall transitioned away from the day-to-day responsibilities of athletic training when he became an assistant athletics director for operations, a title that he held until his retirement in 2007. He is a member of the Iowa State University Athletics Hall of Fame (2008) and continues to be honored within the athletics department. Each year, the Frank Randall Distinguished Athletic Training Student Award is given to the ISU athletic training student who exemplifies “dedication, work ethic, accountability and excellence in the field of athletic training.”
The transition to The Salon occurred in 2011 after his son, Alan Randall, graduated from cosmetology school. Frank and his wife purchased The Salon where they offer a full range of services that include haircuts and styling for all ages, coloring, and extensions. The Salon currently employs nine individuals including six stylists and three front desk receptionists.
The Salon is a social outlet for Frank, who admittedly does not get involved in the hair styling. His son, Alan, continues to be the creative director of the business, even while working in a salon in Colorado. “I just enjoy being around people because that’s all I’ve ever done.” He has full faith in his staff, including stylist Brandi Mcclish, who graduated from PCI Academy in Ames and started her career with The Salon. “Working at The Salon feels like family. We are all in it together to give our clients our best. We are all focused on the same thing and that just feels good!”