Much has changed since Salt Creek Wine Bar opened at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Grand Boulevard back in 2005.
Riverside-Brookfield High School’s football stadium was still called Shuey and had a natural grass field. The school also ran a café called The Paw a few blocks away. Across the street from the new wine bar was a joint called Luna, whose owner was just about to open a new night spot called The Sandbar down the block.
In the intervening 10 years, Salt Creek Wine Bar was a constant on a block where businesses came and went rapidly. Just a handful had the same kind of staying power during that time.
But on Sept. 3, the owner announced the wine bar was closing its doors for good and that the business was up for sale. Brookfield’s foray into the previously foreign world of wine bar culture was officially over.
“I’m moving into my own direction,” said Paula Arroyo, who had owned the wine bar since late 2012 after working as an employee there since about 2006. “At this point, I just want to get out and figure out what to do with myself.”
Arroyo said she’s selling the equipment and furniture inside the business for $40,000. She says there have been several inquiries from interested parties.
“Basically, I’m just selling all the internals,” Arroyo said.
When it opened in 2005, Salt Creek Wine Bar was something a little bit different. It was pitched to the community as an upscale, wine-centered business in a village more accustomed to shot-and-beer establishments and sports bars.
Nothing like it, for certain, existed on Grand Boulevard at the time.
“It was definitely something upscale for the western suburbs,” said Abby Brennan, who opened her Brennan Massage and Spa at the other end of the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard in January 2008.
When Tom and Linda Kampschroeder opened Salt Creek Wine Bar, many believed it wouldn’t last long. Tom, however, had been in the wine distribution business for more than 25 years, and he had a clear vision for his establishment. Linda worked alongside him, creating a place that catered not only to oenophiles, but to jazz fans and the local artistic community.
“I think a lot of people who saw we were going to do something as revolutionary as open a wine bar in Brookfield didn’t think it would last long,” said Linda Kampschroeder.
But for her husband, the bar “was a labor of love.” He built the wooden, diamond-shaped wine bottle racks behind the bar and settled on an intimate tone for the place. No blaring TVs. Wine, food and music would be the focus.
“We created something beautiful there,” Linda said. “It was a gathering place not only for wine and food, but for music and artists.”
Tom Kampschroeder died in December 2011 at the age of 66, and things changed. Linda hung on at the wine bar for a time but decided to sell the business to Arroyo the next year.
“I needed to grieve,” she said. “Running the bar was 24/7; it’s just a grueling pace. I had to pass the torch.”
Kampschroeder said she hadn’t been back to the wine bar very often after selling it.
“It was painful for me to go back in,” she said. “It’s kind of sad for me. I look in there and remember, ‘We made some pretty good bones there.’ But it doesn’t belong to me anymore.”
Just who it will belong to in the future is, of course, not known. The future of the entire facility is up in the air. The building at 8900 Fairview Ave. has been placed on the market by the owner for $535,000.
It’s owned by a real estate trust created in 2008 by John Vrchota, who purchased the property in 1985. Vrchota, a pharmacist, bought Fisher’s Pharmacy from his boss, Mylon Fisher, who had retired after running the corner drug store since 1945.
The property (the present building dates to 1937) had housed a pharmacy continuously from 1908 until 2003, when Vrchota sold the Fisher’s Pharmacy prescription records to CVS. Fisher’s was the village’s last remaining independently owned pharmacy.