How ​Gervasi Vineyards Focuses on Consumer Experience for Growth

Not just connecting with a consumer for a few hours, but for a whole day is a part of the plan for Gervasi Vineyards. The Ohio winery recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and General Manager Scott Swaldo reflected on how the Canton, Ohio facility has bloomed over the past decade. Located on 55-acres, the winery has built its accommodations up over the past few years to have more than just a tasting room, but dining, lodging, drinks, and the ability to service many types of events.

​”We started as a winery, ​which we very much embrace​,” Swaldo said.​ “But because of where we’re physically located, we’re not out ​in a remote area like ​a lot of wineries, especially in Ohio. ​We have the advantage of being within a 30​-​minute drive of hundreds of thousands of people​.”

Gervasi has two 24-room villas with three restaurants that operate year-round along with a fourth that is open during the summer.

“The overnight stays — the minute we decided to do that, that really took us into a whole other category of destination retreats,” Swaldo said, adding that the tourism aspect of the location helps build the brand just as much as the wine.

 “There’s a lot of amazing wineries around the country and I’ve been to many of them,” he said. “But there are not a lot that have multiple restaurants, overnight stays and have a resort that has a winery theme, I guess is the way to say it. That isn’t really common. So it’s pretty unique, what we’ve created.

“You might find one of those elements, but you don’t find all those elements often in one winery location.”

Building the business was a “fun learning curve,” for the Swaldo family. Instead, relying on knowledge from others around them combined with letting a young staff grow has prospered for the company.

“My family has virtually no experience in hospitality,” Swaldo said. “I think what we’ve learned from this experience was how to develop a great company culture. Sometimes in hospitality, you get very talented people, but they aren’t necessarily business-minded. So it’s combining that business background and how to manage people and how to develop a team.

“One of the things I learned early on is that I don’t have a background in this. I’m never going to be the expert and I’m okay with that. So, we’ve really just focused on hiring great people. We just let them blossom and foster an environment where people can really contribute and be a part of building this with us.”

While Gervasi doesn’t have an extensive vineyard, it does showcase around six acres of viniculture.

“That’s both for aesthetics, but it’s also because we’re serious about the wine business and having the ability to grow some things,” Swaldo said. “Because of where we’re at, we’re limited in what we can grow. So we’ve really just focused on those few hybrid varietals that will do well in our climate. Then we just focus on a really excellent sourcing plan for all the other varietals that people would expect from our restaurant destination.

“They’re going to want a Chardonnay and a Cabernet, Malbec and Pinot Noir and all these things that we can’t grow in this immediate location.”

 Although not large, the production is state-of-the-art Swaldo pointed out.

“We really invested in the best equipment, the best controls, and a beautiful space,” he said. “This is a showplace kind of winery and because we think we have a really good winemaker, we’re doing great sourcing, he’s got great equipment … that’s the recipe for a really, really good line.

The Still House, opened in December 2018, is a coffeehouse by day and cocktail lounge & bar by night. The Distillery — a part of The Still House — opened in January 2019. Since that opening, Swaldo said that since building new aspects of the land has been the trademark, but now Gervasi may be set, and working with what is there now is the new goal.

“We really want to maximize what we’ve already built in terms of filling it,” Swaldo said. “Of course the Coronavirus is going to change that whole plan. It’s going to take a while to get back on track.”

Swaldo feels that product expansion, such as private-label chocolates, a coffee line with local importers, private-label marinaras, and other aspects will be the immediate future along with looking forward to more wine tourism.

 “We’re in the experience business — as we say — because we’re in the destination resort environment,” Swaldo said. “But our core product will always be wine.”

Photo courtesy Gervasi Vineyard/GV Destinations

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