November 19th, 2010

By Sarah Kirchner | November 24, 2010

Goodbye to Lilydale’s Diamond Jim’s Liquor, Hello Sunfish Cellars

A new owner expands and plans for updated liquor store and cheese shop.

Diamond Jim’s Liquor in Lilydale will soon transform into Sunfish Cellars—both a liquor store and, eventually, a cheese shop with goods to complement the alcoholic offerings.

The existing Diamond Jim’s has been kept open for business during construction.

But new owner Bill Miller said this isn’t your typical transition from neighborhood liquor store to upscale wine shop. Miller named the business after the wine cellar he built in his own home, and wants to cater to the wine connoisseur as well as the average Joe by creating a similar laid-back atmosphere with helpful advice. He plans to record podcasts of tastings and customer reviews, which will be posted on the future Sunfish Cellars Web site.

Miller comes from a banking and sales background, and said he was never a wine guy. Until that is, he realized he wasn’t drinking good wine. Now he wants to help others find the same experiences and passion he has discovered.

“I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. This is my retirement,” he said.

Miller purchased the business at the beginning of November and quickly began renovating the vacant space next door, where Diamond Jim’s originally operated as a venue decades ago.

“Diamond Jim’s was a major entertainment center in the Twin Cities,” building owner Joe Schaefer said. According to Schaefer, Diamond Jim’s hosted national entertainment in the ’60s and ’70s and once included a dining area and piano bar.

Rob Soleim Jr., who works as an investment advisor in the same shopping center, said, “People like my parents and grandparents remember it fondly.” Soleim recalled his parents driving to Lilydale from their home in Hastings to enjoy the entertainment.

Once construction of the additional space is complete, the current site of Diamond Jim’s Liquor will be converted into a cheese shop.

Miller said while renovating the vacant space he was inspired by the bones of the original structure that older generations would remember well. He kept the original balcony, railing, ceiling beams and spiral staircase.

The great room, just inside the new entrance, will now house the beer and wine inventory. A walk-in beer cave will house chilled selections, and a 5-foot by 8-foot window will overlook the Mississippi River. The balcony and second level will become the tasting area with seating, Miller said, and a lounge is planned for the top of the stairs.

Gary Hart, a patron of The Perfect Ash a few storefronts down in the River Bluffs Center, said the neighborhood across the street might provide good clientele for the shop, though the bar and restaurant patrons in town may not. “It will be interesting to see.”

Miller is aware of the diverse potential clientele in the area, and said he wants to cater to all levels of wine and beer knowledge.

“It’s not about being an upscale wine store, but bringing the upscale feel to everyone,” Miller said.

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