- by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
Alan Lagarde has packed a lot into his attractive new venture, Lagarde’s Fine Wine and Spirits, in the growing Depot District.
There are rows of wines and spirits, of course, neatly arranged in wooden shelves that came from Martin’s Wine Cellar in New Orleans and decades-old glass display cases found online by chance in Florida.
Artwork on the old brick walls reflects Lagarde’s 30-plus-year career around food, but mostly around wine. A favorite framed print came from the 1984 California Wine Experience, sponsored by Wine Spectator magazine, in San Francisco.
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A rewind of his work experience goes back to when he worked as a child (from a family of nine siblings) at Southern Frosted Foods and at St. Stanislaus to help pay his tuition. Other jobs included stints in the kitchen at Bay-Waveland Yacht Club and months cooking on offshore oil rigs and support vessels. (His mother sent him off with a paperback copy of “The Joy of Cooking.”)
His interest in wine started when Lagarde got his first taste of fine French wine while working at a restaurant in Hattiesburg. “A manager of Ichabod’s brought a bottle of wine to a party. It was completely different from any I had ever had.”
He left Hattiesburg for a job in Dallas as an assistant floor manager at Ratcliffe’s, a high-end seafood restaurant with a reserve cellar he eventually grew to house more than $300,000 worth of wine.
Next he moved to Marty’s, a gourmet wine, spirits and food store. “I was thrust into wine in a big, big way. It was an incredible training ground,” he said. “Anybody who was anybody in the wine business, winemakers and winery owners, came to Marty’s to present their wares.”
Customers included actor Larry Hagman, Texas Gov. Bill Clements and Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines.
During his time in Dallas, Lagarde was featured along with two colleagues in the city’s lifestyle magazine as “the best in the business,” as selected by his peers.
From 1988 to 2001 he worked for two of the largest wine and spirits wholesalers in U.S. For the last 20 years Lagarde worked for three import wine groups representing some of the finest wineries in the world, including Penfolds, Leeuwin Estate and Stags’ Leap Winery.
Lagarde came out of brief retirement to manage a small liquor store in the Bay, emphasizing customer service and making sure the store was well-stocked.
That’s when he started thinking about opening a store of his own that would feature the fine wine he knew so well. After signing a lease with developer Jim MacPhaille for a space in Depot Row, Lagarde switched to another, larger space that became available and better fit Lagarde’s vision for his brand.
“I wanted a truly fine wine shop, not a liquor store, even though this technically is a liquor store. I wanted it to look aesthetically beautiful and be more like an experience. I hope I’ve achieved that.”
The store’s inventory reflects Lagarde’s taste and experience working in the wine business. Many of the bottles are produced by wineries or importers he’s familiar with.
“I have a full line of spirits, cordials and wines based on the best available right now within our state,” he said. “One thing about the store is I don’t carry everything, just the good things. I will have box wine but not every single box wine you see out there. It’s a question of buying the best of what the state has to offer.”
Eventually, Lagarde wants to put tables on the sidewalk in front of his shop so people can buy a bottle of wine, grab a bite from one of the neighboring restaurants, throw an album on his vintage turntable, and enjoy the whole entertainment district experience.
Lagarde will host a grand opening on May 7 with wine and liquor tastings and door prizes. Details will be announced later.
Lagarde’s Fine Wine and Spirits
128 Blaize Ave.
Bay St. Louis
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