Gervasi was popular from the minute it opened, in large part because it used social media to give the community a peek behind the curtain as the property took shape.
“There was no struggle for business in the beginning because the anticipation was big,” Scott says. “The excitement that the public showed right away told us we’ve got something here.”
Working in their own interest gave the family an advantage because the family didn’t need to appease a bank or investors. They were free to follow their own whims, or more accurately, whatever whims and wishes found their ears.
For example, Scott says before the winery opened, a young woman stopped by the property, asked what it was going to be and if she could get married by the lake. Weddings weren’t something Scott or the family had considered.
“People started expressing interest in that,” he says. “Then another one stops, and another one. Pretty soon we’re in the summer of 2009, just a few months after we started building, and these questions keep coming.”
With the prospect of people paying to use the space, the family decided to get into the wedding business.
They had a pavilion built near a patio outside the barn by the lake, and the property hosted some 40 weddings that first summer. As the wedding business grew, people wanted Gervasi’s food at their event, and they wanted to stay on the property overnight. Gervasi adapted the menu and increased its infrastructure starting in fall 2010, building six four-bedroom villas, the Villa Grande, the conservatory and the Villa Grande all just six months after opening. Weddings are now a huge part of its business.
Soon Gervasi was getting requests for private meetings, private dinners, rehearsal dinners and showers. They built Cantino in the barn — a semi-private room that holds 30 to 40 people — to accommodate the requests.
“I didn’t really know much about the private event business,” Scott says. “Personal celebrations are a huge market. People are hungry for cool places to do things like that. The demand for this little room was off the charts.”
Gervasi is now averages well over 200,000 visitors a year, mostly from Northeast Ohio — and that’s not including the 125,000 people who visit its other restaurant property, the Twisted Olive, an Italian-American kitchen in Green.
Given its popularity, it’s easy to forget that what really sets Gervasi apart is its vineyard.
“We call it Gervasi Vineyard because we wanted to actually have a vineyard, we wanted people to see that and the beauty that comes with that,” he says. “That will always be our core product. It’s our core identity. Now that we’re a resort, it makes us unique.”
About 20 to 25 percent of Gervasi’s sales come from wine, most of it sold on the property. Gervasi also self-distributes some online, and sells in specialty wine shops, restaurants and the airport. There are no plans at the moment to broaden its distribution business.
With the wine and resort business thriving, Gervasi is growing again, this time, in spirits.