By Sasha Johns
Photos by Christina & Daniel Dennis
Kelly Davis remembers first being curious about wine when she was a little girl at her grandparents’ home in Columbiana. “Growing up, they always had a carboy with a little balloon on top, fermenting in the kitchen,” she says with a fond smile while reminiscing. Like many families in the South, making muscadine wine was a homestead practice, and each family had its own methods and secrets.
In later years, as her grandmother got older, when someone asked her if she wanted some wine, she’d always respond with, “Just a tish.” Little did she know that it would foreshadow her granddaughter’s future.
Kelly’s deep family roots in the area go back to her great-grandfather Leven Handy Ellis, a former mayor, state senator, and lieutenant governor of Alabama. He set an example for his family that has resulted in generations that have served and been deeply invested in their communities in various ways from business to politics to volunteerism.
Handy’s son, Frank, married Annie Christine Moody, a fourth-grade teacher who became known as “Teenie” to her friends and eventually her grandchildren too, and today Kelly’s homage to her grandmother Teenie and her family roots can be felt all over her wine store in Columbiana, aptly named Just a Tish.
To the left of her bar is a vintage photo of Teenie that is enlarged. The photo shows the sass and character of a woman who knew how to enjoy life and how to make others laugh. Across the center of the bar are wines that are available for tasting. True to the name of the shop, a customer can get “just a tish” of a bottle to see if they like them in her signature tiny “tish” tasting glasses.
In the front of the shop sits a comfortable seating area with couches and a low table. Just beyond the table, you’ll find vintage yearbooks from Shelby County High School, where Kelly and her ancestors went to school. She’s been collecting yearbooks for friends and customers to reminisce over when they visit the store.
After the idea for the store was sparked in the fall of 2019, Kelly took her time to plan, and cautiously opened her doors during the quarantine in May of 2020. “My goal was to start slow,” she says. “I didn’t want to get into debt, and I wanted to build my selection at the rate that my business grew.” Working from that idea, she started by finding a location that more than made sense just off Main Street on West College. Conveniently, it shares parking with the Shelby County Arts Council complex that opened just months before she did, giving the shop with ready access to events and a clientele that wanted to enjoy a glass just before a show.
When she opened her doors, though, Kelly only had one wall full of the first wines she selected for her inventory at what is now mid-range price point. It was important to her that anyone could come in and afford her wines, but she eventually brought in several higher-end “special occasion” wines as well as some lower price point varieties. Whether you want a $10 glass or a $100glass, there is truly something for every preference and budget.
The shop’s proximity to the Lay Lake crowd has also been beneficial to her business. “As folks stopped by on their way to the lake, word began to get out that I was here,” Kelly recounts. “They’d tell their friends about us and pretty soon folks started making the trip from Calera and Chelsea and even eventually Chilton county too.”
No matter where customers come from or the knowledge they have about it, Kelly’s joy comes from helping them find just the right wine. As distributors have begun to bring her more wine to consider and taste, she’s found it easier to meet those needs and learn the right questions to ask, and she’s started to host regular wine tasting events with her distributors. For her, owning a wine shop is all about learning and not snobbery. “That’s not at all what it’s about,” she stresses, “I’m learning new stuff about wine myself daily, and I love sharing my passion with others.”
Just a Tish is located at 123 West College Street, Suite B in Columbiana. Learn more at justatishwine.com or follow them on Facebook or @just_a_tish_wine on Instagram.
The Makings of Cheese Board
Stop by Just a Tish for a cheese Board lunch and a glass of wine!
• Havarti, cheddar or goat Cheese
• Raspberry spread or a house-made pimento cheese
• Finger foods like crackers, grapes, almonds, and house-made pickles
• Slices of Italian salami to finish things off
Try Just a Tish!
The “just a tish” wines are a rotating selection of:
• 3 white wines
• 3 red wines
• 1 rose’
You can also select a full bottle of retail wine to open for a small corkage fee, and craft beers are also available.