Main Street Grant Stories: Jack’s Bottle Shop

Because of its absolute uniqueness, Jack’s Bottle Shop, 909 6th St NW, is an established pillar of the Rochester beer (and by extension social) scene. That same uniqueness means the shop doesn’t often find itself fitting neatly into bullet points on an application.

But, as owner Jack Lester says, “Stars can align sometimes like that.”

Since opening in December 2020, Lester and his staff’s meticulous, aficionado-first approach to craft beer has earned a reputation for the most varied, specific, and downright niche coolers in the city. When they decided to add a wine and spirits wing to their already-expansive emporium, Lester found himself putting in even longer nights on the never-off-the-clock small business owner schedule. Finding an application for the DMC Main Street Grants program felt serendipitous.

“When I saw the grant, while we were in the midst of building [the wine and spirits expansion] out, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is exactly what we’re about to start doing!’ Literally, every single bullet point what the grant was for was what we were just about to do,” says Lester.

The $15,000 in grant funds awarded to Jack’s Bottle Shop allowed it “to become more than a beer store,” says Lester. The funds were used to construct the wine and spirits side of the shop and to hire on a full-time beer buyer position. That buyer position will work daily with brand representatives, research new flavor horizons, and cultivate durably fresh relationships with suppliers.

“One thing that makes Jack’s Bottle Shop very special is how we have the selection that nobody else has in Rochester. Like, Jason just walked back in the door from his Twin Cities trip. He goes up every single Tuesday and picks up almost all about 70% of the beer that we carry from the breweries that we select to bring beer in from,” says Lester. “People ask all the time, like, ‘How are you getting these guys?’ We’re putting in the work to go get it.”

If it sounds like Lester’s motivation for excellence in beer selling comes from somewhere deep, that’s because it does. Lester has shepherded his store with consistent enthusiasm through a pandemic, finicky regulations, and the ever-vexing questions of growth and market. Both the bottle shop and the funds they’ve raised for the transplant house and Children’s Clinic of St. Paul are in memory of Marcus, his son.

“We lost Marcus in 2019 to a fight for a dual lung transplant. Nothing in my life has been challenging since then. That’s honest. Truth.” Lester says.  “We don’t have a lot of struggles. I love what I do. You should love what you do in life. If you’re not happy at work, go be happy somewhere else and work somewhere different. My biggest challenge here has been nothing close to what life can present.”

That attitude has translated into a citywide embrace of the enthusiasm crackling through the coolers and over-the-counter interactions at Jack’s Bottle Shop. Each interaction means the world to Lester and his staff.

“I’m so grateful for everybody that goes out of their way to drive across town to come to Jack’s bottle shop and be greeted by us and shop with us. Every single person that pulls our door makes a difference,” he says.