You don’t always have to go out for a drink. Sometimes the drinks will come to you.
A handful of businesses are finding fresh ways to bring drink services to events and wine appreciation to new audiences. With the social season around the corner, the owners and operators of Toasts in Tow, the Tap Truck and Flyght Black may soon be bringing their passion for popping tops and corks to a happening near you.
TOASTS IN TOW
Friends Madeline Rhodes and Jessica Taylor founded their mobile bar business Toasts in Tow in 2021 after they were inspired by similar businesses in Texas.
The women bought an interstate trailer and, with the help of Rhodes’ father Marty, they renovated it into a mobile bar with a serving window, a customizable double bar for large events, electricity, a full sink and a spigot system.
Over the course of two years,Toasts in Tow has added staff and can now bring its customizable event packages to both indoor and outdoor events.
Rhodes says they are booked every weekend from September to Thanksgiving. The extra staff may go to an event where there are bar services already, while Rhodes and Taylor might stay with the trailer.
“We do a lot of weddings. It really depends on the time of year,” Rhodes says. “When November and December roll around, we see a lot of corporate events, Christmas parties.”
In one weekend Toasts in Tow did two weddings and a Delta Waterfowl event. They’re also increasingly booked for baby showers, which provides a chance for Rhodes, a full time teacher, and Taylor, who works in athletic administration, to play around with mocktails.
The duo are happy to grow their clientele, but they particularly enjoy weddings because they can work with planners in advance on drink choices, designs and decor that harmonize with the wedding’s overall look, even matching cocktails to a bride’s bouquet.
“In 2021 it was just a little passion project,” Taylor says. “Now it’s obviously grown, but we both have full-time jobs. It’s the biggest side gig ever.”
THE TAP TRUCK
It almost looked like the mobile beverage business Tap Truck Little Rock was tapped out.
The 1965 Chevy C-10 panel truck and its five taps were destroyed in the March tornado that hit Little Rock. But Tap Truck owners and spouses Shelly and Amber Evans bounced back with a 1960 C-10 (which they named Dewey), continuing to bring craft beers, wine, cocktails, sweet tea, lemonade and more to thirsty event goers.
“Everyone loves a nice vintage Chevy,” Shelly says. “You can’t go wrong with that. You’ll even have the beer-drinking golf players going, ‘Cool.’”
The couple bought the first truck in July 2022 and embarked on an enterprise that Shelly hoped would be fun enough to offset the stress of her mental therapist job at an insurance company. Arkansas law prevents the Tap Truck from selling alcohol without a permanent location, so the owners work with vendors to fill a client’s order, provide the full bar service and tote the drinks, return kegs and basically make it as easy on clients as possible.
The Tap Truck goes to weddings, store openings, charity and local events, non-alcoholic events like freshman orientations and even a local retirement center that rents the truck from time to time. The couple is proud to serve the LGBTQ+ community they are a part of, though the business has meant learning some new skills and the chemistry of beer carbonation.
Shelly says they may have a permanent tap room someday. Recently, the couple opened a shop to sell Tap Truck swag, and of course, had to get Dewey back on the road.
“Our more mature clientele really like this,” Shelly says. “It’s like a throwback to what they were driving. They want to talk shop all the time. What’s under the hood. And then the younger group, they’ve never seen anything like this.”
Though not quite as mobile as the bar services, Flyght Black still brings something to the people, in this case a greater appreciation of, and place in, the world of wine.
With a presence in Arkansas and Louisiana, the wine education program began in 2020 with the ambition of increasing diversity in the wine industry by connecting brands and winemakers. Flyght Black holds education courses and tastings, both in-person and virtual, offers consultations for businesses and features wineries and labels created by people of color.
“Flyght Black has worked to increase awareness of Black-owned wine brands and expand the wine community beyond its traditional networks,” founder Kara Wilkins says. “I have been amazed by the response we’ve received from the local community. Our first event was mostly advertised via word of mouth and had more than 150 attendees.”
Flyght Black provides services at a number of corporate, public and private events for clients like The Nest, Arkansas Cinema Society, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and Black Tech NOLA.
The third Flyght Black Wine and Culture Festival, slated for Oct. 15 at Maumelle’s Park on the River, is expected to sell out for the second straight year. The festival includes selections of Black-owned wines and craft breweries, local food trucks and entertainment.
Wilkins is planning to launch a wine club next year offering a number of courses ranging from basic to advanced, with blind tastings. She is also anticipating a holiday season of private tastings for potential clients.
“We’re actively seeing people begin to feel more comfortable in the wine space and become confident enough to ask their local wine store if they carry certain Black-owned wine brands,” Wilkins says. “I’m proud Flyght Black is helping to demystify wine culture.”