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Meet Kathleen Morgan of Savour in North Shore

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen Morgan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathleen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Like many, I came to the hospitality business as support for my academic pursuits, putting myself first through Wheaton College, then through graduate school at the University of Chicago. While working on my PhD in History of Christianity, I started my catering and coffee shop business, aptly named “Ambrosia,” the “Food of the Gods.” While I was a student at the University, Rick Bayless, who ironically was a PhD candidate in linguistics at the University of Michigan, opened his first endeavor, Frontera Grill, with the adjacent soon-to-be-recognized 4-star restaurant, Topolobampo. In fact, Topolobampo won the James Beard award for outstanding restaurant in 2017. Our paths soon crossed when I took a position at Topolobampo and began working on the complex food and wine pairings of gourmet regional Mexican cuisine. I decided I needed to know more, so I completed a course of study with the Court of Master Sommeliers in Aspen, Colorado, with Richard Betts (then the sommelier at the Little Nell) leading the charge. After completing my certification as a sommelier, I went to work for a small, but influential, boutique distributor in Chicago, called Maverick Wines, where exposure to wine-makers, chefs, restaurateurs, and wine retailers, vastly expanded my knowledge of wine and the wine business. While working in Chicago, I met a savvy retailer, who had been in the business many years. One day, he observed, “We both sell wine, but I like my job much better. You have to go out and find the customer. My customers come to me and they want to buy wine. I just have to steer them in the right direction.” From that time on, I viewed the wine retailer as a “coach” essentially looking for and developing the “right talent” and putting that “talent in the right hands”.

I “soaked up” as much wine knowledge as I could hold. I started teaching a 5-part introduction to wine series I called “Become a Wine Expert,” which I still offer at Savour twice a year, in October and April. I decided I would like to open my own wine shop, with a unique vision, specializing in small-production, artisanal, boutique wines from around the world and a “Try before You Buy” business model, featuring wine-tasting machines, where customers could sample 20 different wines before settling on the right bottle. I knew I wanted a store with a strong focus on education, with particular emphasis on the most challenging task for the sommelier, chef, or retailer, the pairing of food with wine. So, to this day, I see myself much like a coach, as I taste every wine that comes through our doors at Savour, to be sure it meets our standards, and I sell it to the customer who presents the best fit. We keep extensive records, so we know our customers’ names, needs, and wine preferences. Many times, they can’t remember what they bought or liked or what they had the wine with (only that they loved it and want it again), but we remember. That’s the most satisfying part! Now, Savour has become a distinctive voice on the North Shore, where many come from Cape Ann, as well as towns like Andover, Beverly, and even Boston for our unique selection of wine and artisanal cheeses, as well as charcuterie, and even craft beers, mostly from New England.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
“A success is a failure that tried one more time.” (Marc Mero) Having decided I wanted to open my own wine shop, I could not have been prepared for the bumpy, often broken road that lay ahead. After leaving Maverick wines, I began working on putting together a business plan, finding a location, and developing the concept and vision of my wine store, “Vineyard Dog.” I had seen many dogs in the vineyards on my trips to California, and I thought, “Who has a better life than a vineyard dog, chasing birds, eating grapes and scrapes of food tourists toss away, while basking in the glorious sunshine of California?” I began putting my plan together and started looking for a location. I found what seemed to be perfect one in the little town of LaGrange, Illinois, just west of Chicago, and adjacent to my idyllic home village of Riverside. Riverside, Illinois is the first planned suburb of America, designed entirely by Frederick Law Olmstead, famous for creating the beautiful circle of Boston parks known as “The Emerald necklace, as well as Central Park in New York City.

Opening a wine store is far more involved than most retail endeavors because it involves alcohol, requiring special licensing from the city and the state. LaGrange was a dry town for alcohol retailers, so the first uphill battle was convincing the city council to consider making a change. Much to my surprise, they were unanimously in my favor. In the end, they wrote a special license that defined my address as the only one in town allowed a retail license to sell alcohol. Meanwhile, I established contact with a business man interested in investing in “Vineyard Dog,” who was willing to put up the necessary capital. I was on my way! But – not for long. When it came time to sign the lease, purchase the wine-tasting machines, and set up the bank loans and documents, my business partner disappeared with everything in my bank account (and even the food in my refrigerator)! I discovered that he had made fraudulent claims to the city of LaGrange and had falsified the bank documents regarding income and assets.

I found myself in the middle of a Chicago winter, with no money, no food, and what looked like no future. I remember lighting a fire (fearful of turning on the heat or lights) and scavenging the woods for twigs and branches to burn in the fireplace. Once I realized what had happened, I had to let everyone involved know. I was fortunate they all believed me and did not hold me responsible. The next morning, I got to work looking for buyers for anything I could sell to get some cash to buy food and pay the electric and gas bill. A photographer friend of mine came down and purchased all my lighting equipment from my days as an amateur landscape photographer. That started me on my path. I put my house up for sale, but the timing was catastrophic. As we all know now, 2008 was the most devastating year of financial collapse, particularly in the housing industry, since the depression. In fact, we are still feeling some of its long term effects to this day. I sold off all my belongings, but eventually lost my home and had to move in with my daughter, Brooke, an interior designer in Scottsdale, Arizona. I took whatever job I could find, landing a position as a recruiter in the biotech industry, which is centered here in Boston. Having grown up in Lynnfield, I was very comfortable on the phone, talking with other “Yankees.” One day, I made a call to Robert Morgan, a high-level executive in the regulatory field. He helped me find a good candidate for the position I needed to fill, so I sent him a few bottles of wine to thank him. A few days later, two large lobsters arrived in my Arizona office. (I think my coworkers thought they were scorpions)! I spoke with Mr. Morgan on the phone several times over the next few weeks. He decided he wanted to meet me and flew out to Arizona to spend some time together. We spent a wonderful weekend in Sedona, where we eventually married three years ago. My time in Scottsdale came to an end when Bob, my future husband, decided to “come get me” and bring me back home to the north shore. We currently live in a home he built with his brother and father 3o years ago on Good Harbor beach. Every morning I wake up to the sound and smells of the ocean and a stunning view of Salt Island and I think, “It is good to be home!”
My husband was willing to help get my wine store started here, so we began work on “Savour,” which was the name my daughter Brooke and I came up with while working on the business plan in Arizona. Originally, I intended to open Savour in Scottsdale, but once again, the economic collapse hit Arizona hard, as many business people were invested in real estate. New projects dried up, as investors had to pull out, so I was once again left at the starting gate. But, I knew I wanted to come back to New England and work in the industry here. My husband offered to help with getting the necessary capital, but we did not have a license and it looked like it would be very hard to obtain, since there are none available. For most retailers, it is necessary to buy a business to get their license. I took a job at a local package store with a small boutique wine section. I told my boss when he hired me that I wanted to open my own place, but he said, “You will never get a license.” In less than a year, my husband and I bought a wine and cheese store, complete with a license and I let my boss know I would be moving on. We opened Savour on June 30 of 2010. After all this time, it was finally happening!

But – the success was short-lived. On September 15, I picked my husband up at the airport, as he was arriving back home from a business trip to London. We got a call from Chef Matt Beach, who was operating his catering business, Beach Gourmet, out of our kitchen. “There is a fire next door. We have been asked to evacuate, but it seems like it won’t be that bad.” Matt left the kitchen, with his wallet sitting on the counter, expecting to go back in shortly to assess the damage and collect his belongings. We never went back. The winds off the ocean, coupled with the old wooden walls and tin ceiling of the late 19th century store fed the fire throughout the night, until there was almost nothing left. What we could see, we could not reach because the building was too unstable and unsafe to go inside. I saw everything I had fought so hard for collapse in front of me. I remember we had a series of glass decanters on shelves in the front window. One lone decanter, filled with black smoky water sat on a shelf, unscathed. I saved that decanter, ironically called “The Rooster,” and my sign. That was all.

Shortly after the fire, we of course visited our insurance agent, only to find they had not filed the proper paperwork and we were only covered for about 25% of our loss! But I was determined to start over. I read that 40% of businesses who suffered a catastrophic loss, such as a fire, fail in the first year after reopening, even if they have been around for a long time. Knowing that the majority of new businesses fail within the first 18 months, and adding the loss to that, the odds were not good. We had less than a 25% chance of success, except that we were starting our business in the small seaport village of Gloucester – which probably gave us a less than 10% chance! Whether driven by determination, anger at the insurance company, or a driving desire to see my vision work here in the town where my husband and I have our home, we decided to push on. Many times, I felt like I was forging a rushing stream, trying to get to the other side, stepping gingerly from one rock to another, waiting for the waters to subside a bit, so I could plant one foot on dry land. In November of 2012, we reopened Savour at 76 Prospect St., which had been a popular town pharmacy for many years. One of its owners had died suddenly and the property had been empty for some time. We took it over, got a crew together, and renovated it from the inside out. It was tough financially, but it feels good to see this building, corner and neighborhood alive and thriving.

Please tell us about Savour.
Savour Wine and Cheese is a “Try Before You Buy” Boutique wine and artisanal cheese shop featuring small-production, largely biodynamically produced, high-quality wines and hand-crafted cheeses from around the world. We feature 20 wine-tasting machines where customers can come in any time and sample, free of charge, to help them choose the right bottle for any occasion. We have over 700 wines and 100 cheeses, along with meats, olives, nuts, fresh bread, prepared foods, and even our own house-made fortified bone broth, called “Good to the Bone.” Most of our wines sell for $15.00 – $25.00, since that price range offers the best value, but we have 135 wines that sell for $9.99 and a fine selection of wines for special occasions and gifts.

We have a strong emphasis on “hands-on” education, so in addition to the 20 wines to taste on the machines, we offer in-house tastings every Saturday from 2 – 5 pm, where we pour 5 wines, paired with cheeses, meats, and other charcuterie. The customer can taste and sample while we offer in-depth information about the wines and answer any questions they might have. Twice a year, I offer my 5-part wine course, “Become a Wine Expert.” We also offer classes on regional wine and cuisines, and host dinners open to the public on particular wine regions, such as the Veneto in Italy or Provence in France.

Food and wine pairing is our specialty. We offer many different ways to create “Perfect Pairings,” including a series of wine, cheese, and accoutrements we offer in packages on our website We help customers with basic principles of pairing, such as highlighting similar or contrasting components in the wine and food or learning the important “bridge ingredients,” such as mushrooms that can bring the wine in harmony with the food. But we have increasingly turned to molecular gastronomy to create both unusual and very satisfying pairings. If both the food and wine share a similar molecular structure, they work together, even if that does not seem obvious. A good example is Italian Vernaccia from San Gimignano, a white wine that pairs well with Roast Pork and sauerkraut with caraway because the bridge element of caraway seeds has the same molecular structure as the wine. While no other wine professionals offer it, we create pairings based on the common molecules and the residual sugar scale. My ultimate dream is to create a simple scale people could use on their own identifying the molecular structure of the food and wine with something like a simple color and the residual sugar with a number from 1 – 5. So for example, if a food is a “Yellow – 5,” all wines that register “Yellow – 5” would work! This creates endless possibilities! When we do whole menus based on this concept, we can pair every course with every wine and each one builds on the other to create a seamless harmony from beginning to end.

This emphasis on high-quality, boutique wines with distinctive tastes from different terroirs is something that sets us apart from most wine stores. The ability to taste at least 20 wines on any given day, frequent tastings pairing wines with cheeses and other charcuterie, and a large selection of wines unavailable anywhere else on the north shore makes Savour Wine and Cheese a unique destination wine shop. What sets us apart is an incredible depth of knowledge of wines and how to pair them with food and a strong emphasis on developing and sharing knowledge gleaned over decades in different aspects of the wine business. I am pleased to announce that Katrina Sullivan, who has been in the food and wine business for over 40 years, and has a profound appreciation of wine, with a strong desire to share that love with our customers, has joined our staff this year as our General Manager. Like me, customer service is her main priority. We make a point of knowing each customer by name and keeping track of their wine and cheese preferences. I can honestly say that you could not find a better venue for purchasing and enjoying wine. No other retail shop has the breadth of experience, the unique selection, and the truly exceptional customer service we offer at Savour.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
It took four tries to get Savour going and to arrive where we are now. When I started this journey in Chicago almost ten years ago, I could not envision losing everything I had to a dishonest business partner and later to a fire started by a careless smoker in the building next door, but much of what occurred was out of my control, as is often the case. If I could have done anything differently, I would have adapted to change more quickly, with the understanding that change is the only constant. The challenge and joy of starting your own business and working each day to build it and see it succeed is that you can make decisions quickly and change direction “on a dime” whenever you see fit. If Savour becomes a favorite wine shop destination for the north shore while contributing to the growth of Gloucester, and creates financial stability for myself and my husband, I will be very satisfied. If we can develop a new way to think about food and wine that creates a “sea change” in the industry, I will have met my purpose. If “a success is a failure that tried one more time,” I will keep trying.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Savour Wine and Cheese
    76 Prospect St.
    Gloucester, MA 01930
  • Website:
  • Phone: 978 282-1455
  • Email:


Image Credit:
Photography by Kathleen Powers (Erickson) Morgan

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1 Comment

  1. Michaela DiPersia

    August 1, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Fantastic article! Never knew Kathleen was such a talented photographer! And, glad to see love bloom at any age!

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