Barry winery closed; building for sale

Posted: Jun. 20, 2015 5:51 pm Updated: Jul. 5, 2015 12:07 am

By Deborah Gertz Husar
Staff Writer | 217-221-3379 | @DHusarWHIG

BARRY, Ill. -- What was still a new idea for West-Central Illinois in 2001 has run its course in Barry.

Collver Family Winery -- the first in Pike County -- closed its doors, and the building in Barry's industrial park is for sale.

"The economy just kept going down the last three years," Tim Collver said. "We have less and less sales every year. It was uneconomical to try to stay open and pay the help, buy licenses and go to festivals."

Dinner theaters offered at the winery tapered off in popularity. Collver said the winery tried offering live music and other live entertainment with varying success.

Collver doesn't look for another winery to move into the site.

"I think it will be something else," he said. "The building was built specifically for a winery, but anything can go in there."

James "Tip" and Phyllis Collver and their son Andy broke ground in July 2001 for the winery, which opened in April 2002. The family saw the venture as a way to promote tourism and sales of a locally-grown product, wine made from grapes at their Sunny Hill Vineyard. The family planted their first three varieties of grapes in 1998 as an alternative to corn and soybeans, then added three more in 2000.

But many people still didn't know that grapes grow in West-Central Illinois or that the industry has a long history in the area. Many people grew grapes in the 1800s and early 1900s until Prohibition, when people took grapes out and planted other crops.

The idea caught on, and the area now boasts several wineries -- Baxter's Vineyards in Nauvoo, Lake Hill in Carthage, Spirit Knob in Ursa, Village Vineyard in Camp Point, Ridge View near Mount Sterling and Hopewell near Rockport.

"We thought when the other wineries opened it would bring more business to the area, but I don't think that ever happened. It just split everybody up," Tim Collver said. "We just oversaturated the area without a large metropolitan group to draw from."

Closing down still was a tough decision.

"I know Dad didn't really want to," Tim Collver said. "I went ahead and decided to anyway."

Tim Collver handled much of the winery's operation with some help from his dad, and his sister pitched in to help with special events. He moved back to the area in 2002 to help out with the family business, and he says he doesn't really miss it.

"I've switched jobs so much in the last 25 years since I got out of the Marine Corps," he said. "I've been here 13 years. This is the longest I've been in one spot for a long time."

But he might not be done with the wine industry.

"I'll have to sell it. I won't make it," he said. "I'll have to work for somebody in the tasting room or do festivals. I've thought about that."

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