These Inclusive Entrepreneurs Are Shaking the Wine Industry

By Michael McCarthy | September 14, 2020 | Food & Drink

Hadley and TJ Douglas, owners of Urban Grape in the South End

Since Urban Grape (theurbangrape.com) celebrates 10 years in Boston’s South End this year, owners TJ Douglas and his wife, Hadley, knew they wanted to draw a line in the rich earth and make a statement. The result is the Wine Studies Award for Students of Color, with the goal of dramatically boosting opportunities for professionals of color to advance in the wine industry. TJ, who has been in the wine business for more than two decades, says he wanted to centralize his charitable work in an area that makes the most impact for him: diversifying the wine world.

“We approached Boston University more than a year ago with the idea of combining education through their wine-studies program with paid industry internships and mentorship,” says TJ, who notes it didn’t take long to get their partners in place. “But we needed to secure a large initial donation to begin the fund. In June, our store had its single largest sales month in 10 years, fueled largely by the emphasis on buying Black-owned products from a Black-owned store. We were able to use the profits to make a donation of $10,000 to start the fund. From there, our clients and Bostonarea businesses have helped us toward our goal of $100,000 to endow the fund. This award isn’t about finding a job; this is about creating a career off of which you can build sustained generational wealth.”

An appreciation for those who turn grapes into bottles of wine is often the second tier of the purchase—directly behind taste. For as long as he’s been in business, TJ has told stories about Black-owned winemakers, including standouts like Longevity Wines and Maison Noir. His enthusiasm for young Black winemakers is palpable. “Brenae Royal is only 30 and already manages the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard in Sonoma. She turned her interest in agriculture into a coveted job in the industry, and is one of our favorite leaders talking about the importance of diversifying the wine world. She’s going to have a long and amazing career, and we can’t wait to see where she takes this industry.”

Photography by: Courtesy of The Urban Grape.