Just before Christmas, I sat down with Jess Ghaie, co founder of Blackhearts & Sparrows, the Melbourne-founded specialty wine, beer and spirit store.
Jess and her brother Paul opened the first Blackhearts & Sparrows, in Melbourne in 2006. Today there are 13 locations across Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT. This is a particularly special Chatting With, as I have known Jess since I was a baby (literally - Jess’s father delivered me!) and our families grew up together in regional Victoria.
Family is at the heart of all that Jess does. As a mother of two young children, Jess balances a thriving and growing business with over 100+ staff, while also focusing on nurturing and celebrating small independent makers. While weeknight wines and at-home cocktail making may have been a mainstay for many during the lockdowns of the past two years, Blackhearts & Sparrows was certainly not immune to the pandemic. The online store had to quickly become the engine room of the business, supply chain disruptions caused headaches, and Jess felt compelled to support their family of staff and makers throughout. Amidst all of this, Jess and Paul were able to miraculously create a new business, Perry’s Refreshment Club.
Jess, tell me a little bit about Perry’s…
For years we have wanted to have a space to host events in, and for us it was always going to be about finding the right location. Enter Perry’s, housed in a 150 year old pub on Collingwood’s Smith Street. It’s so much more than a licensed venue. Perry’s old world charm has been infused with modern design to create a private venue that can house a party, launch a product, host a photoshoot, celebrate a wedding and so much more. While the pandemic challenged the process, Perry’s is now open and ready for business.
Can you suggest some wines for us?
Yes! If I was going to something more low-fi, like an outdoor summer BBQ, I would take along a chilled red - preferably a Pinot or Grenache with soft tannins and a jubey palette.
When I’m going somewhere special, I’ll take a growers champagne, just like your favourite bubbles but with so much more. A bottle of growers champagne is usually made and bottled by the person who grew the grapes in the traditional method, giving nuance, attention to detail and stunning flavours.
How do you reset, unwind and relax? Easy: yoga, cooking and being with my children. I try to practice yoga at least once a week, and create some structure between work and home to ensure I am switching off as much as possible.
Let’s chat clothing. As a teenager, I remember you and my sister Emma embracing grunge and thrift-shop dressing - skirts and slip dresses over pants with chunky knitted cardigans or parkas… [laughs] I remember exactly that moment in time! For me, thrifting was twofold, driven by affordability and more importantly not wanting to look like everyone else. However, I must admit that a knitted old-man cardigan with holes is not my go-to anymore!
What do you love in your wardrobe and how has your style evolved? I’m a little on the shorter side of tall (!) and I love of Japanese fashion and retail, which is why I’m devoted to a cut of pants from a Japanese brand which have become my wardrobe staples. I can buy them off the rack without altering. Today, I favour shopping at small independent stores in my inner city Melbourne neighbourhood over the online experience, and have assembled a wardrobe that speaks to my individual aesthetic.