Above, The most recent facelift of Woodstock Wine & Cheese occurred in 2019.
By Michelle McLemore
Woodstock Wine & Cheese has a family legacy of being the longest-running, continuously-owned business on Devils Lake. That coupled with being the most knowledgeable in the area about American craft brews and wines. But life changes and the Fetter family is now entrusting it all to a new family: the Singhs.
Nearly 40 of William Fetter, Jr.’s 54 years have revolved around working at and developing Woodstock Wine & Cheese. Shortly after he started working there at age 17, his mother, Pamela Fetters, bought the shop on Aug. 1, 1983. From there the family took the business through several external renovations such as removing the gas pumps out front, removing the overhang, and giving the exterior a general facelift. However, it was the internal expansion of product and knowledge that paralleled the rise of the American craft brewing industry making the location a must-stop for many tourists, lake visitors, and locals.
In the early years, the business was personal. Suppliers were excited to bring out the latest brands because the Fetters had established a reputation of treating the new industry and products well. At its height, Woodstock boasted about 500 brands of beer in their inventory.
“We used to teach the customer about the different beers and wines,” Fetters recalled. “Now the Internet teaches them.” He shook his head. “It’s just different.”
William Fetters, Jr. steps down as Woodstock Wine & Cheese’s craft beer and wine aficionado as the store has been sold to Tarlok Singh of Adrian.
In addition to beer and wine, Woodstock also features about a thousand types of liquor including top-shelf bourbons, scotch whiskeys, vodkas, and more with a convenient stellar deli also in house.
Fetters began exploring selling the business roughly two years ago so his mother could enjoy some retirement. Unfortunately, Pamela passed before the dream was realized. William and son Will III have been running it since then – roughly a year and a half ago. Last year, the 37th anniversary of the shop was a somber day without his mom. Yet, William walked into the store and into a surprise party thrown by the employees.
Fetters said he won’t miss the errands and phone calls, but definitely will miss the people and the fun.
“So many people have affected our lives,” he said. “The strangest thing will be not seeing the customers.” Heather Connett, of Onsted, the one consistent employee through the transition, commented “Fetters will be dearly missed.”
One promotional gimmick Fetters was proud of was the Woodstock Drinking Team. At present, the team has approximately 313 members. To become a team member, a customer buys a membership card for $2 and receives a list of 250 different beers from the inventory. As the customer purchases different beers, the items are checked off. A discount of 10 percent is given with each brand tried. Upon completion of the list, the member receives a Woodstock Drinking Team shirt with their name on the back as a vested full member. This will be just one of the many good memories Fetters takes with him.
The new owner is Tarlok Singh. The store will be managed by one son, Meet Singh, and his cousin, Eddie Singh. Both have prior experience with helping the family’s other business, Lowries, in Adrian, Mich. Meet has been working in business retail since 16 when he worked for his uncle in New Jersey.
Fetters praised Meet Singh, one of the new managers.
“Meet is a hard worker with a great personality. He volunteered to come in 12 to 13 hours a day to shadow and learn as much as he could before the sale was complete. He investigates, researching the differences between the craft beers and wine so he can be knowledgeable for the customers.”
As one improvement, Meet is working to widen walkways for a more comfortable shopping experience. The family is also considering bringing in the lottery as they sold a one-million-dollar ticket recently at Lowries. A door delivery service is additionally being contemplated.
Eddie Singh and Meet Singh are excited to be the new managers for the Woodstock store and look forward to continuing the family-owned, community-friendly legacy.
The Singhs would like to reassure the community that Woodstock will be family-owned and operated, much as it has been in the past. The Singhs respect the iconic culture the Fetters family created and only hope to strengthen it further.
They will keep the business name and all the current products such as Woodstock’s retro logo tie-dye t-shirts. Fetters shared that the shirts have been a big item over the years, “selling thousands” and finding homes in 14 states, and countries as far away as Australia. George Clinton’s wife even purchased one for a gift one time.
Overall, the Singhs are very excited about owning Woodstock Wine & Cheese and look forward to meeting people in the area and meeting their needs year-round. Fetters looks forward to helping his wife with her carpet cleaning business, but with a twinkling in his eye, suggests he may occasionally still be found wandering around the Woodstock parking lot drinking his coffee and checking in.
This story comes from a recent edition of The Exponent. If you would like to keep up to date with the happenings of the Irish Hills and the surrounding area subscribe to The Exponent today at www.theexponent.com/subscriptionplans.
Grass Lake Girl Scouts are holding their pinewood derby on Sunday, October 11 at noon at the Grass Lake Pavilion 373 N. Lake Street, Grass Lake.