In 2009, Allen and June Dossey opened the Purple Toad Winery in a lush, green vineyard near Paducah, and they started selling wine sweeter than southern tea. Locals loved it. Demand for Purple Toad’s vibrant flavors grew, and the winery now ships to roughly 400 stores across Kentucky and to outlets in four other states. And, it’s still growing. Allen hopes to own the region’s largest winery one day.

Allen spoke with us recently about his ambitions, his goal to please the palate, and his process for growing a successful business.

1. How did Purple Toad Winery get started?

It’ll be open eight years July 1, but I took a trip Napa with the family 18 years ago, and we just loved it. So, I just decided I was going to try to grow grapes back in Kentucky. We put the grapes out 17 years ago. … We just sold the grapes for the first 10 years, and then after that, we decided to open the winery. And, we’ve been off and running ever since.

2. Why did you open it?

I’m not very good at sitting. I used to play golf, but I had four arm surgeries. So, I had to find something else to do. I started tinkering around, playing around with wine. My first wine, I sent out for a national competition, and I won a gold medal. … Friends and neighbors would come over to the house, and they would try it. “Oh, when can I get that?” [they would say.]  … Finally, I just decided to go ahead and jump in and open [a winery] up. … I enjoy making stuff people like.

3. What do you do that sets you apart?

We make higher quality gourmet sweet wines—that’s what we specialize in. We make dry wines, but our specialty is sweet wine. And, our wines are usually much more flavorful. So, if [the label] says “Blackberry,” it’s just like eating a fresh blackberry off the vine. And, if it says “Strawberry,” it tastes like a fresh strawberry. That’s really what we try to do with all of our wines.

4. How has the community helped your business?

The community has been very supportive. We have a lot of people who stop by when they’re going out of town, and they take our wines. … They’re proud to take them, and when they get [to their destinations], their friends are tickled to have them, too. So, they end up getting orders when they go back.

5. What is your favorite thing to do in Paducah?

I like antiques, so I like the antique shops. And, we’ve got tickets for the Four Rivers Performing Arts [Center]. We actually have front row tickets for the Broadway series. … I enjoy the medium-sized towns. You can go play golf when you want or you can run down to the lake, and you don’t have to sit two hours in traffic, trying to get through.

6. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur starting a business in Paducah?

The main thing here is to do your homework. Make sure whatever you do—whether it’s a service or a product—makes sure you research it thoroughly. Make sure that for what you’re trying to do, there’s enough market for it. … For my product, there are three things we look at: You’ve either got to be cheaper, better or different. … In our case, we have two of those. I think we’re better than most fruit wines out there, and then, we make different wines because they have a lot more flavor than others. … If you go out and start a business and you try to compete against one of the big chains, their cost levels are so much lower. It’s just almost impossible to compete with anymore. So, you’ve got to do something different or have better service. The other thing is to make sure you have adequate financing.

Photos courtesy of: Purple Toad Winery Facebook Page

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1. How did Piper’s get started?

With Amber and I having traveled across the globe, we’ve seen many tea and coffee plantations, as well as experienced beautiful coffee shops! The interest in tea grew. At one point I was regularly selling tea out of the back of a van. When the opportunity to purchase real estate in the Coke Plant arose I knew it was the perfect location for the shop. With the Midtown area growing, it has been an exciting journey to serve our customers with a quality experience that has never been offered in Paducah.

2. What do you feel is the most important thing about Pipers?

When Piper’s opened it was the first coffee shop of its kind in Paducah. We wanted to take that opportunity to give the community a space for ideas and friendships to grow as in traditional times. In Japanese tea houses, there are very strict rules about entering the space. With a small doorway only 3 feet tall or so, the warriors would have to take off their shoes and swords to enter. This kind of reverence was monumental to preserve the ambiance of the conversation and that is something that I would like to translate into Piper’s. We take our craft very seriously and the quality of it is something that we will always work to uphold within our atmosphere.

3. How has the community helped Piper’s be successful?

Our practice consists of meticulous consistency and artisanal quality coffee that we pride ourselves on. We will always do things that way started doing them in the beginning, and we appreciate our customer’s patience and appreciation for the quality of their beverages. We have regulars who have helped cultivate not only Piper’s but the Midtown area into something more urbanized than just a few years ago.Their patronage shows that Paducah appreciates the high standards we have set.  As this area progresses we are excited to see the development of local businesses like our own.

4. What’s your favorite thing to do in Paducah?

My favorite thing to do in Paducah is definitely getting to spend time with my wife Amber and the girls. (Daughters Millie and Emmy Rose)

5. What advice do you have for people trying to start a business in Paducah?

Find a need. Find your passion. If these two things align themselves, find a location.

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