Paradise Wine's "Bubble Wall" <span class='image-credits'>Nancy J. Parisi</span>

Paradise found on city’s West Side

The selection of wines has grown in the two-and-a-half years since Paradise Wines opened in the city’s West Side, and its popularity has blossomed through word of mouth and some recent national publicity.

But through it all, co-owners Paula Paradise and Lauren Kostek have stayed true to their commitment to selecting small-production, sustainable and biodynamic wines from all over the world, while still being that everyday wine store for the residents in the neighborhoods around Rhode Island Street and Five-Points.

Most afternoons, Paula Paradise is busy chatting with customers in her sunny, 1,000-square-foot shop. After 12 years at Premier Wine, Liquor & Spirits, Paradise set out in 2015 with Kostek, her best friend, to buy the building and take on a complete renovation, turning the location into a charming shop with well-spaced aisles and racks and a corner for whiskeys, ryes and rums.

Paradise Wines has been featured in numerous local publications and Bon Appetit. Opening a small business always has some level of risk, but for Paradise, the biggest challenge is being patient, even as the store’s customer base grows.

“It really comes down to, the wine has to taste good. It doesn’t matter if the philosophy behind it is appealing,” Paradise said. “But the philosophy is appealing, the concept is appealing, and then the wine tastes good, I think it gets everybody excited. We’ve just been growing incrementally as the word has spread.”

Kostek, a full-time realtor, handles the business side of the operations, including invoices and bookkeeping, while Paradise “spends all the money,” she says, selecting wines only from grapes that are biodynamic and sustainably grown, harvested from organic, small-production wineries around the world. From Bordeaux and Tuscany to Napa and Sonoma, Paradise chooses a selection that appeals to residents in a diverse neighborhood, all at a price that is appealing to someone stopping off after work for something to drink during dinner.

“We wanted to be the everyday wine store, so we specifically target the $10-$15 price range,” Paradise said. “For me, it’s more challenging as well to find great wines at that price point. Anybody can find a good $50 bottle. That takes no talent. I really enjoy finding wines of character that represent the regions they come from.”

And with that, Kostek and Paradise have also become cornerstones in the small-business community of Buffalo’s West Side. Paradise has lived in the neighborhood on and off for 30 years, and she says the store is all part of creating a walkable neighborhood where people don’t have to get in their cars to shop.

“We totally developed our business according to how people have responded to our inventory,” Paradise said about her customer base. “I would say it was scary for me to open the store with only 100 wines in stock. But in a way it’s been fantastic, because I’ve been able to grow the inventory according to what people seem interested in. And it gave me time to really source things out.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Paradise chatted with a customer looking for a wine with a smoked tobacco flavor, something a little herbal. She pointed him toward a syrah. On Fridays, Paradise does afternoon wine tastings. The store has Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds, but it really doesn’t need it as the shop has become a cornerstone of the West Side’s revitalization, while growing its selection from 100 different wines and spirits to 600.

“I don’t see the neighborhood transforming as much. This area with little businesses is transforming, but I really love the diversity of this neighborhood and I don’t see that going away, so I’m happy about that,” Paradise said.

The challenge now is to grow slowly, allowing Paradise to invest in choosing the best selection of organic, sustainably produced wines. The store does offer some nonorganic local wines and liquors, but they're the exception.

But the goal remains the same, Paradise said. To learn her customers’ pallets, and to make a decision they’ll be happy with, whether they want to splurge or are looking for something more practical.

“I’ve been doing this for a while,” Paradise said. “I love food and cooking so I am very much about offering that kind of service. That makes us different, but I also think the wine makes us different because every wine is hand-picked. And sustainably farmed."

Read more articles by Joel Lehman.

After spending 15 years in northern Vermont where he worked as managing editor for a daily publication, Western New York native Joel Lehman returned to Buffalo this summer to be part of the city’s renaissance. He lives with his girlfriend and his goldendoodle, Wilson, and he enjoys running, skiing and cooking for his family.
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