“Wine is such a fascinating story,” Tiffany Dillon said. “It starts with a farmer and some dirt, and it goes on this journey into a beautiful bottle with a beautiful nose and a beautiful pallet. That’s really fascinating to me.”

Dillon is the owner of Gwen Tajz wine bar, the newest addition to downtown Duluth’s thriving bar and restaurant community.

Gwen Tajz opened on June 15 this year and has quickly become a popular spot on Main Street. The vibe there is casual, relaxed and fun. It’s comfortable. And that’s no accident. That’s exactly what Dillon wanted.

“I love entertaining,” Dillon said. “I love having dinner parties. I love having my friends over. The more the merrier.”

She intentionally brought that sense of welcoming to Gwen Tajz.

Great wine and much, much more

The wine bar is at the front of the shop on Main Street, with a beautiful stainless steel bar as well as table service. Dillon provides a rotating menu of wines by the glass: red, white and sparkling. Gwen Tajz offers a selection of beers, non-alcoholic drinks and coffee as well.

Behind the bar area is the retail shop, with a large inventory of bottles of wine of many different types and from many different vineyards. There is a variety of accessories and wine glasses for sale as well, including the Gwen Tajz thermal “to go” cups — perfect for Duluth’s open container law — that give you a 10% discount when you bring the cup back for a glass of wine at the bar.

They hosted their first wine tasting in August of this year, with many more on the way. Gwen Tajz also offers some delicious food offerings — cheeses and breads and charcuterie boards. And in the winter, when we’ll all want to stay inside more, Dillon plans to offer some wine education classes.

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Photos by Suzanne Boylan

Overcoming obstacles, including COVID

As put together as the bar looks today, getting it to this point wasn’t easy.

When Dillon’s husband Tim took a job in Duluth, she commuted from Huntington Beach, California to Georgia for eight months. During that time, she realized how much she enjoyed the South. “I wanted to put down roots,” she said.

Dillon had a long and successful career in fashion design, but she didn’t see many opportunities for that in Georgia, so she looked for other options. “I wanted something different to do in life,” she said. “And wine has always been something I’ve enjoyed.”

She started to write her business plan, thinking about two wine bars that friends of hers owned in California. Gwen Tajz is very different from both of those bars in its own unique ways, but they definitely were an inspiration.

Dillon finished the business plan, lined up the finances and signed the lease for the space in Duluth on March 1, 2020. And that’s right when COVID hit.

“We basically went through most of our money in the first six months,” Dillon said, “because we had to continue to pay rent and I had already set up utilities. We really struggled. We had to find somebody that would believe in us. There’s a small bank in northern Georgia that took the leap of faith.”

That bank’s SBA loan allowed Gwen Tajz to be completed and for Dillon to hang on financially until she could open her doors to the public. “It was really stressful,” she said, “but I don’t give up easily.”

A part of the Duluth community

Looking back at how it all happened, Dillon said, “I’m so happy that we persevered. I’m so grateful. Everybody that comes in has been amazing. We’ve gotten to know so many great people.”

Being in Duluth is a big part of that. She’s seen firsthand how the local businesses support each other. “If I run out of something or if I need to borrow some napkins or whatever, everybody is super willing to lend those things. And when it’s their turn, they ask and we’re happy to oblige. Everyone tries to allow everyone else to succeed.”

Asked what her favorite wine was, Dillon didn’t hesitate to answer. “My all-time favorite is sparkling. I love champagne and prosecco and cava. My motto for the last several years has been ‘I woke up this morning so there’s always a reason to celebrate.’ Bubbles should not be reserved for special occasions.”

She also enjoys whites and rosés, and she says, “With a good dinner, a great red is always welcome.”

Dillon wants Gwen Tajz to be a fun experience for everyone who visits. She’s also on a mission to make wine less bougie, less snobby.

“I want people to know that wine is just as good as beer and just as casual,” she said. “A lot of people make it almost ostentatious — and it shouldn’t be that way.”

There’s no doubt Gwen Tajz will make that happen. “We still have things to do,” Dillon said, “but I’m proud of the way it turned out.”

Gwen Tajz
3129 Main St
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 910-7122

Glenn Boylan
Glenn Boylan

Glenn is a freelance writer living in Gwinnett County. He writes about a broad range of subjects, including business, music, sports, and nonprofits. His work has been published in magazines and websites nationwide.