So I Think I Owe You An Explanation . . .

December 18th, 2014 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration

Still Elevate Your Ethanol

Photo by Clovis IV Photography.

OMG where the heck have I been??! Bad blogger! It’s true, I suck, BUT I blame love, and you can’t get mad at me for that, right?

Love. Love is a tricky mistress. But I digress. Let me tell you a story.

Jeremy and I met each other when we were both desperately lost. It’s true! Like a couple of cocked slingshots we were, both of us bursting with potential, ready to let fly if only we could find a direction worth flying towards. And together, with the help of one another, that’s what we’ve done.

I came first, though we’ve both been working on both of us from the very start. But primary and most pressing was sorting out my life, and getting me into graduate school. And I wouldn’t have done it – I literally would not be where I am today – without Jeremy’s encouragement and support. Every step of the way. I would not be in grad school, and I would not be able to stay in grad school, if it weren’t for Jeremy.

So once that was sorted out, our attention turned to him. From the earliest moments of our relationship – I mean just weeks in – we’d been doing these midnight brainstorming sessions. Sitting on the floor together, with a giant pad of paper, and all these colored pens, making lists. What do you want for your life? What are your dreams? Your secret desires? We were both so unhappy where we were and knew that we wanted to get somewhere else, but weren’t sure where to go or even how to start. And together we would figure it out. On giant pads of paper scrawled in a rainbow of color, spread out on the apartment floor in the middle of the night, we would whittle it down until we had a crystalline vision. And we were ready to fire.

action plan

That giant pad of paper. The very beginning.

Jeremy’s business is booze. Fine wine and spirits, to be exact. And he had been working in a position for the past eight years, which he absolutely hated. He loves the industry – loves the craftsmanship, the artistry and the culture surrounding wine and spirits. But his job – that particular job – was soul-crushing.

He dreamed of opening up a shop of his own, something unlike anything he’d seen before. A retail space completely devoted to the art of cocktail craftsmanship. A space for everyone to enjoy, from the amateur home mixer to the professional mixologist. He could see it so clearly!

So many pads of paper, and so many colored pens. So many nights spread out on the floor, thinking and dreaming. Frustration. Fear. The job he had was bad, but man – it paid well. And leaving all that behind? Is fucking scary.

beach walk

^^ That picture means so much to me. It was taken on the day that was our turning point. On a very, very long walk. On the beach. Hours spent walking up and down the beach, me and him, just talking. We were at a breaking point. Not a break up point, but we needed to have a serious conversation about our lives, and what we wanted. And in that conversation it became very clear: Jeremy had to quit his job, no matter what.


And it was literally less than one week later that we were walking down the street just a few blocks from our house, right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, and we passed a little corner shop with bars on the windows. And men were loading up a moving truck.

So we asked one of them – “What happened here?” And he told us, “This is my family’s building, and this was my grandmother’s shop. But it hasn’t been open for almost 10 years, and now we’re taking everything out.”

And so we asked.

“Will you be renting it out?”


And how much?”


And after a pause he raised an eyebrow and asked, “So . . . are you interested?” And Jeremy and I just looked at each other. And we didn’t say anything at all.

Three days later Jeremy signed the lease. The next day, he quit his job. And one week later he was off.



Well, that was 6 weeks ago, at the tail end of October. As soon as Jeremy’s job let him go, he was at that shop, working. Every day. Dawn to . . . well, way past dusk. 16 hour days. 18 hour days. The place was a wreck, I mean really a wreck. And he put SO MUCH work into it.

Our goal was to open for Black Friday, which gave us a little over 4 weeks to get the place whipped into shape. Completely overhauled, renovated, new flooring, new lighting, everything. Of course we also had to order inventory, we had to establish accounts, we had to get our licensing and all that awful paperwork. I had to become an expert in vintage glassware (not gonna lie, I watched all 6 seasons of Mad Men as research), and start professionally picking (I’m the official VP of vintage, which has turned out to be our biggest seller!). And all of this, mind you, while I’m still in graduate school, still taking a full load and teaching 4 times a week. Still a mom. Still all that other life stuff.

No illusions, this is 100% a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, do-what-it-takes-to-make-it-work operation, all the way. Which is . . . exciting!

And here we are 6 weeks later. And wouldn’t you know it, but we own a shop! And it’s even open!

And I know you want pictures of the whole process, yes? So without further ado, the transformation of Still:

Still before

Pretty early on – maybe day 2? The place was freakin’ filthy. Here, he’d already taken down the garden lattice (yes, actual garden lattice) that was covering the mezzanine.

Still before pics
There’s some of that lattice . . .

Still before tile
Industrial carpet, commercial grey and green tiles. Both from the ’80s.

Still renovation process

Still renovation
A break for green juice and shelling peanuts.

Still remodeling mayhemStill remodeling mayhem 4Still remodeling mayhem 5Still remodeling mayhem 3

Late late night delirium . . .

Still reno hardware store
And many, many trips to the hardware store. So much so that they know Waits by sight, and call him “Trouble”, and save the Transformer stickers especially for him. He’s such a little charmer, that one.

Still before kid helper

Still renovation picnics
And we had countless picnics on the workspace floor, when Jeremy just couldn’t spare the time to come home for dinner. Waits and I would pack up a warm meal and bring it over to him, eating on an old blanket amidst the construction mess and power tools.

Still renovation painting

Still before pics painting

Still Floor beforebefore Still Floor

Floor before . . .

Still floor after
And after!

Still barStill bar 2

Jeremy built the register counter from reclaimed materials, and entirely from scratch. Because he is actually AMAZING.

Still before stocking
Getting closer. Inventory! (And on the left you can see the display unit that Jeremy built: “floating” wine boxes set at an angle, to hold bar spoons, strainers, jiggers, etc. Ugh, my man is good.)

Still renovation late nights
T – 2 days till opening. We had to work late into the night, that night, so we set Waits up with a little nest in the loft. Blankies, movies on the iPad, pizza delivery, and a whole carton of oat milk all to himself. He was seriously such a good sport through this whole thing!


And then, just like that, Thanksgiving had come and gone, and Black Friday had arrived. And it was all happening. WE WERE OPEN!!!

Still finished

Still Jeremy

Still bitters bar

Still final amazing

Photos by Clovis IV Photography.


It’s really hard to believe that this is all real. It happened so fast that we’ve hardly had time to stop and think. Overwhelming? Yes!

Exhibit A: the pic we took at the end of opening day:

omg Still opened

And that about sums it up.

So please, wish us luck! This is truly Jeremy’s dream, manifested. And I am just so incredibly proud of him.

We have a website as well! Okay, so it’s just something we threw together ourselves (for now), and we’ll have something more exciting in the future (any designers out there??). But you can shop all our products, and learn what we’re about – so please check it out!

And with all that, I can now bid you adieu. I do hope to be back to some sort of semblance of regularly scheduled posting, but who the heck knows? Between a spirited 4 year old, graduate school, and a brand new business to build . . . well guys, I promise I will do my very best.

I love you guys! Happy Holidays!!

♥ ♥ ♥

  • Anna

    Wow, Sayward. You guys inspire me. Great job! The place looks awesome :)

  • Sarah

    This is such an inspiring story. Taking a huge risk in order to follow your dream is terrifying, challenging, and ALWAYS worthwhile, and I love that you and Jeremy have had the courage to do it. I wish you all the happiness and success in the world!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much Anna!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Sarah! “Terrifying, challenging, and ALWAYS worthwhile” is a really great way to put it, I think. All of those things and more. Thank you so much for the well wishes!

  • Samantha Ellwood

    SO awesome!! Congratulations, and I’ll be an online customer! :)

  • Claire


  • Jennifer

    Congrats and the best of luck with your new business! This is such a great idea for a store. I would love to have a go-to cocktail supply store, because sometimes the accessories are more intimidating than the liquor!

  • Lindsey

    Congrats you two!!! Your place looks amazing and I will be stopping by your website soon :) :) And thanks for the post. I miss you!!!!

  • Amy Beauchamp

    WOW that is absolutely awesome. I am so happy for you and happy for you both. Waits is growing up so fast, he is such a young man now. I wish you all the best, you deserve it!!

  • Amanda

    My heart is bursting for you. So many congratulations to you both.

    I’m gonna over-share right now, because two months ago my dude lost his job when the media giant that owned the alt-weekly he worked at shut it down without notice (and as compensation, only a severance package with a non-compete clause that said he couldn’t do what he does best in the city he lives in). He and his colleagues shredded their agreements and are starting a new paper. (They’re crowd-funding right now, and it’s terrifying.) I’m so proud of him, but everyday is frightening and exciting and awful and great, and I’m tearing up right now. I’m feeling all your hard work so viscerally right now, and you did an outstanding job at a hard thing to do.

    Speaking as a drinking enthusiast, that place looks fabulous. Thanks for showing the progress shots, and all the best, and give ‘em hell, you three!

  • Jennifer Ruth

    I’ve been a lurker for a while, and just love your blog. AND now I just love your online store! I’m definitely ordering something today. CONGRATS!

  • Rachel

    This is THE COOLEST!!!! I love the bitters tasting bar! Congrats and I wish you both so much success!!

  • lysette

    Holy smokes! You are amazing juggling so much – thanks for sharing, this is wickedly inspiring. Slingshot is an apt metaphor. I love Wait’s loft nest photo, reminds me of being his age, now wanting my own sanctuary nest :) Best wishes, success and good vibes to your business, studies and family. Enjoy those hard earned cocktail/mocktails!

  • Kate

    Congratulations! This sounds wonderful!

  • Deirdre

    I have shivers, of the best variety. Inspiring and heart-warming. Best wishes to your family!

  • Tara Noland

    This is incredibly inspiring and amazing. So happy for you both! I think it’s time to start having some late-night brainstorming sessions myself… ;-)

  • Jenna

    Such an awesome idea for a shop! Congrats and good luck to you guys!

  • Cara

    What a great story! Best of luck!!

  • Ginny Messina

    Just peeked at the website and oh my–a bitters tasting bar!! I need to plan a trip to Santa Monica. Congrats on this new endeavor; may it be very successful!

  • The Vegan Cookie Fairy

    WOW! Congratulations, what an amazing success! Best of luck to you both, you deserve it :)

  • theveganchickpea

    that is SO EXCITING. so happy for the two of you!
    random question- are you getting your master’s degree or phd?

  • Natalia

    WOW, Congratulations, what a beautiful place and amazing work! Best of luck to you and Jeremy! I don’t comment often, but I love your blog and I want to thank you for all you do for the community — your posts are super informative, fun, real, motivational, and uplifting, a very rare combination :) As a mom of two (vegan) little boys, I really appreciate that! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  • vegyogini

    Congratulations and best of luck to STILL! You all really outdid yourselves; it’s a gorgeous space.

  • Rebecca

    Congratulations! So wonderful that you guys realised a dream! If you need help with the graphic design side I’d love to help you out. You can see some of my stuff here –

  • Charley

    Amazing!! Congratulations to you both and thanks for sharing the story, inspiring to say the least <3

  • Rebecca Carnes

    Oh my goodness!!!! That space is amazing – those before & after photos are crazy. It’s like night and day. So beautiful – I am in awe of you guys for having a dream and making it a reality>>> Congrats!!!!

  • klean-slate

    Congrats!!! I will be up there as soon as the chaos from the holidays blows over. I’m really very happy for you both =)

  • Sonja

    you guys rock so hard! Congrats from all my heart!

  • Sandra Vungi

    Yay, this is so awesome! All the best to you and may your business blossom :)

  • stephie137

    Ahhh! So fun and awesome! Congratulations you guys!

  • jenn

    omg! YOu go woman! You’re such an inspiration to take life by the balls and run with it :) Cheers to you all.

  • jenn

    Hey also i have a friend who is a web designer and I’ll give him your info

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay, thank you so much Samantha!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Jennifer, and yes I totally get what you’re saying. There’s so much in terms of accessories and barware, it can be overwhelming. But it’s also super exciting, all the shiny pretty gizmos and gadgets! The more I learn the more I appreciate cocktail culture, and the more I understand how much craftsmanship can go into a drink. It’s one of those things – just like with food I guess – where once you’ve had it done well, you just don’t want to go back. It’s like the difference between fast food versus a farmer’s market meal.

    Anyway, now I’m rambling. Thank you!! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Lindsey!! I miss you guys too, so much. It’s been so hard being unavailable to blog! Like this whole piece of my life is missing. =(

    Hopefully that will change soon though!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Amy, and ohmigosh I know, isn’t Waits so grown up? It really shows in these pics. His grace and cooperation through this whole thing really made my heart swell. ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Amanda, and thank you so much for “over” sharing (not over at all!). I loved reading what you wrote here, and relate so much to the feelings you describe. And EFF YES for shredding agreements and following dreams! I can only imagine how scary that must be, but also how empowering and exciting. I wish you the best of luck!! Give ‘em hell as well!!!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Jennifer, and thank you SO MUCH for the order. You were our first online shipment! =D

  • Angie

    Congratulations and tons of blessings and positivity being to sent to you on this new journey!

  • Shannon

    TCB! How exciting. I promise I’ll come by and check it out next time I’m in SB. Best of luck…cheers!

  • Kristin Chambers

    Congratulations!! What an amazing whirlwind! Wishing you guys infinite success. You inspire me!

  • Elizabeth

    Amazing! So,so, so happy for you! (And I’m drooling over that bitters tasting bar…)

  • Carrie @ Carrieonliving

    Just wanted to send you huge congratulations, Sayward, and say that I’m very much looking forward to visiting the store on my next trip to SB. Thanks for continuing to inspire me with your enthusiasm, positivity, and vibrancy. Happy Winter Solstice and best wishes for a happy new year!!!

  • glitterpenis

    Awesome and inspirational! Good luck to you both with the business. And we’ll all still be here when you can come back and update. I know I’m not going anywhere! Been with you since your “very tall house” days. :) xo

  • Nichole

    Such an inspirational post, thank you for sharing! I was worried in the very beginning that you were going to announce a split, and then it turned into a beautiful story about hope and luck and hard work. Congratulations!!!!

  • CrystalB

    you guys are totally inspiring to me. I had a bunch of changes happen at my job that I am not loving, but it is so scary to leap. I might not be ready yet, but you give me hope that I might be. On to the giant pad of paper!!!

  • LIndsey at TheGreenPenn

    Wow! Congratulations! The place looks amazing. I’m pretty sure my husband would fall in love with it if we lived out there. You guys are such an inspiration. We’re going through a bit of scary transition, ourselves, and this just gives me hope that everything will work out. I look forward to updates from your new labor of love. Good luck with everything!

  • EllaRose

    The very best to you.

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