New Hampshire Sunday News: LaBelle Persevered Though Pandemic
Winery owner pivoted, and was able to hire back almost all laid-off workers.
By Kimberley Haas
Special to the Union Leader
When COVID-19 hit, Amy LaBelle had to lay off 90 of her company’s 102 employees and pivot from a restaurant and wedding venue business to a family meal program model.
She stayed in touch with those employees throughout the time they were closed, and when it came time to reopen, all except two came back. They had health reasons.
“I will forever be proud of how we saved LaBelle Winery,” LaBelle told a group of business leaders gathered at the UNH CEO & Family Enterprise Center on Thursday.
LaBelle knows the power of perseverance. She recalled being called to winemaking after finishing law school. She was still in student loan debt and was working at Fidelity Investments.
LaBelle continued to work at Fidelity as she pursued her dream. She participated in an online course in winemaking at UC Davis in California.
Her first batch of commercial wine was 400 gallons. Six months later, she went back to taste it.
“I tasted the wine, and I got a little emotional and I thought, this is going to make it,” LaBelle told the crowd of just over 20 at Three Chimneys Inn in Durham.
The company, which operates venues in Amherst and Derry as well as a shop in downtown Portsmouth, now produces 80,000 to 90,000 gallons of wine a year.