Want To Invest In Winery?


March 31, 1991

SILVER RUN — Dave Argento is looking to raise $224,000 to save Montbray Wine Cellars.

Founded in 1964 and bonded in 1966, Montbray has been operating on a shoestring under its founder, ex-Johns Hopkins psychologist G. Hamilton Mowbray.

Maryland's second-oldest winery and the oldest to be continuouslyoperated in one place, Montbray was the first commercial winery to successfully grow classic European (vinifera) grapes in the mid-Atlantic states. It made the region's first Riesling, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, all of which were critically praised.

In an effort to preserve and expand Montbray, Argento and his partners have formed Seyve Villard Corp., a new holding company named after a grape variety, and have drafted a plan to offer 28 shares of stock at $8,000 apiece. He said he has received verbal commitments for 16 shares.

The plan calls for the corporation to use some of the money to lease Montbray's vineyards, winery and name from Mowbray with an option to buy at a later date. The rest would be invested in renovations and equipment as part of a 10-year plan to make a profit.

The prospectus projects a loss for the first three years, and after that any profits would be plowed back into the business; no dividends are planned.

"If you want to make money, you can invest in a McDonald's franchise and you're pretty well guaranteed of making some money," the 34-year-old Argento said. "Investing in a winery in a mid-Atlantic state isn't that kind of investment. In terms of getting into the black as far asour operating budget, we think we can do that in probably four years, but that doesn't mean we'll be making money in terms of paying backthe initial investment."

In December 1989, Argento, who quit a high-paying job in construction, came to work at Montbray full time. Atfirst, he collected a salary, but in recent months he has worked in the vineyard without pay while various other deals to buy the winery failed.

To help draft a new plan, he recruited Gary B. Davis, chief financial officer of Polk Audio Corp. and a wine enthusiast.

Under Seyve Villard's business plan, Montbray's wine production gradually would rise from a typical production of under 2,000 cases to more than 5,000 by the end of the decade. Eventually, Argento hopes to growto 10,000 cases a year.

If all goes according to plan, the winerywould recoup the initial investment sometime after 2000. If the dealfalls through, Mowbray, 69, said he could be forced to sell the property to developers when its agricultural-preserve status expires in five years.


WESTMINSTER -- The Carroll CountyChamber of Commerce has announced upcoming events:

* The chamber will have a media appreciation luncheon at noon April 11 at Martin's Westminster. Reservations should be made by April 8.

* A "BusinessAfter Hours" function will be 5 to 7 p.m. April 24 at Livingston Financial Group, 532 Baltimore Blvd., Suite 408.

Bring your business cards and make those contacts you haven't had time for. Reservations should be made by April 23.

* The Chamber will have its general membership dinner April 29 at the Quality Inn Conference Center on Route 140.

A cash bar opens at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. and guest speaker Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-6th. Cost for the dinner is $15 and reservations should be made by noon April 25.

* The Chamber already is gearing up for its Business to Business '91 show Oct. 3 at Martin's Westminster. This third annual show will feature 71 exhibits in areas ranging from accounting to employment services to security systems to telephones.

Information: 848-9050 or 876-7212.


WESTMINSTER -- Carroll County Foods had its annual Employee Awards Banquet Feb. 2 and recognized the following employees for their contributions during the past year:

* Warehouseman: Kevin Guilday.

* Driver: Aubrey Meek.

* Sales Representative: Corynne Courpas.

* Sales Team: Shirley Shipley and Glenn Bacon.

* Rookie: Trudi Ness.

* Employee: Tammy Weant.

* Honorary Service: Weldon Clinton.

The company also launched its 1991 marketing campaign in January, "It's a Jungle Out There."

Each month, one employee is selected as a "Jungle Guide of the Month" for exceptionalcustomer service. Sonny Welty, a truck driver for Carroll County Foods, was chosen for January.

Frank Hottle, also a truck driver, wasthe February winner.


HAMPSTEAD -- Charlie Horse, a gift shop for horse lovers, has moved from the farm to a downtown location.

This month, owner Charles T. Cole moved the store from a converted hog house to a larger shop at 1009 S. Main St. The shop no longer is at 2100 Cape Horn Road, as was reported Wednesday in The Carroll County Sun.

The store, which Cole opened in the fall of 1989, sells merchandise with a horse motif, from stuffed animals tochina and jewelry. Prices range from 50 cents to $1,850.

Cole also has a mail-order catalog business and plans to travel to horse shows on the East Coast to sell his products.

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