A championship powerboat racer and a pilot, Dan Lawrence has found another outlet for his passions.
Next month he’s scheduled to open Loomis Cellars at 3234 S. Dixie Highway.
Over the past several months, he has been transforming the unassuming former antique shop into a climatological fortress to protect clients’ collections and create a club setting for enthusiasts talk about their trips to France and Napa Valley, get advice from Sommelier Mike Bettor — and raise a glass or two.
It’s all about having a setting outside the home to hang out with people who are passionate about wine, Lawrence says, just like boat experts into talking about specialized propellers, or plane owners, engulfed in the intricacies of avionics. “The key is the professional culture.”
There are other wine storage businesses in town, renting lockers, catering to yachts, for example, or selling wine.
Lawrence and Bettor sell no wine before its time. In fact they sell no wine. That’s not the concept.
The club is the concept, along with the personal, knowledgeable touch and the high-end protection for collections that range from 1,000 to 15,000 bottles. If you loved cars and had a Rolls Royce, you wouldn’t feel comfortable taking it to a dirty repair shop, Lawrence says. Same idea with a wine collection, he says. If you take it seriously, it’s all about the details.
Past the marble-floored foyer and members’ lounge, two doorways lead to dim corridors where 31 individual wine cellars are located, away from ultraviolet light, held to 55 degrees and 70 percent humidity. The units, secured by wrought-iron gates with bio-metric locks, are shielded by the building’s concrete walls and roof, lined with foam insulation, cooled with two refrigeration systems, and protected from outages by a generator with a three-week supply of fuel and an outlet for a backup generator. “I’m a pilot, so I’ve built redundancy everywhere,” he says.
The units are mostly 8-by-6-feet or 8-by-7 but some range larger.
But wouldn’t a person who can afford a 15,000-bottle wine collection have a cellar in their mansions?
Yes, but some are selling homes and transitioning into condos and don’t have the space. Others might have a collection up north but want one down here. Others, he hopes, will use the living room-sized club as a place to meet with friends.
When not at the club, members can check a phone app to verify the temperature and humidity in their cellar, or get updates from sommelier Bettor about wine collection news.
Already, 13 of the 31 spaces are spoken for, with deposits. If this prototype takes off, he hopes to open more of its kind in South Florida, and other southern or southwestern climes, possibly Houston or Phoenix.
Not everyone has to be a billionaire to belong. Loomis offers social memberships for those who may be a bit lower down the scale or who are recommended as up-and-coming collectors, new in their passion for wine.
A full membership costs $865 a month to store 2,500 bottles.
A social membership costs $50 a month. You don’t get your own cellar but can store 100 bottles.
The wine business is new for Lawrence, but he is an expert in pursuing his passions, some of them dangerous.
He has put in thousands of hours piloting small aircraft, even after surviving a plane crash in the Everglades in 2013.
And he has won four powerboat championships, retiring in 2015 after winning a silver metal at the Qatar Cup and wining the U.S. national championship in Clearwater. He’s put in thousands of hours running a boat over 100 miles per hour, but the 50-year-old says he senses his reflexes might not be at the level they were. “Bad things can happen in a split second.”
For now, though, he won’t savoring victory on a podium, he’ll be savoring fine wines in a cellar, or at least helping others do so.
Have a West Palm Beach news tip? Contact Staff Writer Tony Doris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-820-4703.