A business that has grown to be an institution downtown is discreetly changing ownership on Nov. 1.
Tracy Silver, of Bloomington, Ill., has acquired the Venice Wine & Coffee Co., 201 W. Venice Ave., from Heide Jaeger-Drum and Ken Drum.
Silver and Tony Dustman, M.D., whom she describes as her significant other, have been in business together for 20 years. He is an orthopedic surgeon and she started a sports medicine practice, developing it into the Center for Outpatient Surgery. Dustman and colleagues own a campus of buildings where they provide sports medicine and outpatient surgery to patients and athletes.
For 15 years they have owned a vacation condo in Venice, and she is a Wednesday customer at Venice Wine & Coffee Co.
“I wanted a downtown business that would be fun, yet challenging because I want to continue working full-time,”” she said. “All 14 employees are staying, and I don’t think I could step in and do this without them.”
The Drums will be available for two years to assist with the transition. She expressed a desire to continue overseeing the menus for a while.
Heide Drum came from Germany to Ohio, where she obtained a degree in marketing and communications. In 1984 she met Ken Drum, who was executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. He moved to Venice in 1990; she followed; they started the Island Gourmet store, 121 W. Venice Ave., and were married two years later.
For seven and half years it was a bar, opening at 8 a.m. to serve coffee and bagels; later in the afternoon it became a wine bar. Wanting to expand, the Drums purchased the art shop at 201 W. Venice Ave. at the corner of South Nokomis Avenue. In 1998 Heide Drum moved their gift basket business to the new location, expanding the gift items, gourmet food and chocolate.
Two and half years later the Island Gourmet’s lease was up. Moving to their new location, they acquired the adjoining beauty salon on South Nokomis Avenue. Knocking down interior walls, they almost tripled available space to 3,000 square feet and subsequent expansion outside provides seating for 58 diners.
They got into food service because she found she liked cooking and subsequently published two cookbooks.
“Four other businesses started with us in the 100 block of Venice Avenue. We’re the one who survived,” said Drum. “We have built an institution for Venice. So many local people have developed friendships through our store.”
“Initially, we closed at 5 p.m. Then some merchants wanted to have a glass of wine after closing their shops on Friday. The hours were extended to 6 p.m. Then they asked us to put out something to eat. Friday night we do as much business as we do all day on Friday.
“Richard Brower, our wine manager, started Tuesday evenings for customers to bring, buy and share wine. Women wanted their own group on Wednesday evening, calling it Wine Women, but it is now co-educational. Thursday evening is for special dinners and Saturday is for wine tastings.”
“The product being offered is so unique and I intend to continue doing it,”” said Silver. “Going down the path, if there is anything obvious to the way the community is changing, I would look into that. It is an old building, so I may be looking at expanding.”
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