A woman’s rekindled passion for wine turns into retail

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Jessica Arkwright, founder of Must Wine Loft, thought when she said goodbye to wine in 2016, there would be no turning back. Kind of like a break up.

Arkwright, 45, had left wine for cybersecurity after many years working in the hospitality industry. In 2018, she went to a winery — an Oregon vineyard — and two weeks later, a California vineyard hooked her up.

“I was going to cybersecurity school at St. Pete College in 2016, and I wanted nothing to do with the hospitality and wine world,” Arkwright said in an interview with Patch. “I mean, I did and I didn’t. I was about to go out in my head. Mentally ready to go out, because I was working at the [St. Pete] yacht club during school.”

Arkwright also spent two years as beverage manager, including managing wine orders, for the now-closed local market and its upstairs restaurant.

Arkwright’s feelings for the wine business fell back in love when a friend visited Oregon in the summer of 2018 on a trip for leisure, not work, she said.

“It was interesting to go there as an ordinary person, not as a buyer,” Arkwright said. “As embarrassing as it is to admit, it was overwhelming [going as a buyer].”

Four years later, Arkwright shares his wine knowledge in a former laundromat, now called Must Wine Loft, at 442 Second Street North in St. Petersburg. Wines from around the world including red, white, pink and orange are available by the glass and bottle. Some of the menu items at Arkwright are tapas, cheeses, paninis and salads.

“I love talking about wine and getting people to taste wine and getting them to see other regions they don’t know and understand better, so they don’t feel intimidated by wine,” he said. she declared.

Arkwright said she was grateful to Raymond Cotteret — she wouldn’t know anything about cheese if it wasn’t for him. Cotteret, a retired cheese maker, worked as a cheese manager at the local market and now shares his expert knowledge with Arkwright and his cheese manager, Charlie Maki, a former cheese maker at Mazzaro Market.

Once a month, Must Wine Loft organizes wine tastings. Arkwright said customers are welcome to sample wine while shopping inside.

Must Wine Loft opened in March 2020 — at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Arkwright credits many pop-up tastings the shop has held during COVID for keeping his business afloat.

She also became a gift basket salesperson for Tech Data Corporation, a global technology products distributor headquartered in Clearwater, as their employees began working from home for COVID-19 safety precautions.

The Must Wine Loft offers outdoor and indoor seating. A future plan for the Arkwright store is to increase its physical size by adding space next door in the same building by the end of 2022.

This space is a former gymnasium. And before that, it was a sailboat and yacht charter office on the corner of Fifth Avenue North and Second Street North, across from Kahwa Coffee.

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