Interview with Chad Day, Owner/Manager, RoxyAnn Winery
By Chris Cook, Capiche, capiche.us President and CEO of Capiche & Capiche Wine, Chris Cook is a leadership coach focused on happiness, culture, living your brand, and winery marketing & PR. She brings decades of experience in marketing and a love of entrepreneurship.
Interview conducted by Melissa L. Michaels, Capiche Contributor/Strategic Partner, Michaels & Michaels Creative, LLC
When you hear “historical destination winery in Medford,” RoxyAnn Winery probably comes to mind immediately. With 11 spots on the National Register of Historic Places and a farming heritage dating back four generations, RoxyAnn Winery’s stunning grounds carry a fascinating history that makes an unbeatable backdrop for wine-tasting, weddings, and their Wine + Music Series. Owner/General Manager Chad Day and his sister, Owner/CFO Crissie Olson, inherited this legacy from their extraordinary father, Jack Day, and have shaped it into the award-winning winery it is today. One of the jewels that makes East Medford such an attractive wine-tasting destination, RoxyAnn produces 17 types of Bordeaux- and Rhône-style wines from the grapes grown across 70 acres of their vineyard.
Over the course of 18 months, Capiche’s Chris Cook conducted secret shopping visits for RoxyAnn, a process that yielded extremely valuable data, which Capiche then applied to helping employees and management live their brand. Capiche also surveyed current and former wine club members to understand how RoxyAnn could best serve them. At the end of the process, former members were invited to rejoin the club—so many took them up on the offer that it more than paid for the service. By reaching out to their wine club members, Capiche helped reconnect them with RoxyAnn and made them feel special and heard. When RoxyAnn implemented many of the recommendations, the club members got even more out of this win-win arrangement. Most recently, Chris worked with RoxyAnn’s core management team on a strategic planning process involving five short sessions where they revisited the brand, mission, vision, goals, and values. The process resulted in a clear action plan so they could effectively implement the strategies discussed.
Q: RoxyAnn Winery’s fourth-generation farming heritage dates back to 1908, when your great-grandfather, Reginald Parsons, bought Hillcrest Orchard. The orchard is now included in the National Register of Historic Places, and the Parsons family farm is a landmark location. What was it like growing up on land with such a special history?
A: Growing up, I don’t think my sister and I realized the importance Hillcrest Orchard had in the history of our region. It was our back yard, our play place. We had a barn and haystacks to climb on, acres to play in and explore. It was only later in life, after I moved back to the Rogue Valley, that I realized what a special place this is. As you pull onto the grounds of RoxyAnn Winery and Hillcrest Orchard, you’re welcomed by an iconic barn that has stood for 100 years. People come up to me all the time and tell me how they used to play tennis at the Rec House or pick asparagus in the orchard in the springtime. This is still one of my favorite times of the year, when I get to bring my two girls out and explore the property looking for asparagus at the base of pear trees. The barn, the “Big House,” and the Packing House are all included in the National Register, which means these structures will remain for the community to see and enjoy for many years to come. Even as the City of Medford continues to enclose around us, these structures are here to remind us of how Medford and the Rogue Valley were established.
Q: The vineyard was born in 1997 when your father, Jack Day, replaced 20 acres of pears with grapes in Block 14 on the Southwest slopes of Roxy Ann Peak. The 2001 RoxyAnn Claret marked the birth of RoxyAnn Winery. Tell me about your father and the legacy you, your sister, and the rest of the RoxyAnn team carry on in his name.
A: The vineyard was originally planted to diversify the crops we had on the property. My dad and his cousin Jud planted the vineyard with the sole purposed of selling fruit. Foris Winery & Vineyard was purchasing fruit until 2001, when the vineyard matured and started producing more fruit than they were willing to purchase. The story I heard was Ted Gerber (Foris owner) told my dad he should start his own winery. After some research, my dad had Ted make the 2001 vintage of RoxyAnn Claret and then later hired away their winemaker, Sarah Powell, to help him build the facility we have today.
My dad was always an entrepreneur. Throughout his life, he dabbled in many different industries. Right out of college, he worked for Howard S. Wright, a commercial contractor in Seattle; then he owned a plumbing business here locally called Modern Plumbing; and later he spent 20+ years as a commercial real estate appraiser, focusing most of his career in Alaska. Building RoxyAnn Winery was a project to keep him busy after he retired from being an appraiser.
He started the winery because he was proud of his family’s heritage in the Valley, and he wanted more of the community to be able to come onto the property and experience what he knew growing up. I am sure he never dreamt it would grow so quickly into the destination winery it is today. RoxyAnn has become a staple of East Medford, and I hear stories from our customers all the time about how they met their spouse at RoxyAnn Winery or how RoxyAnn Winery introduced them to wine.
Q: Before you returned home in 2012 and assumed leadership responsibilities for the family business, you earned an MBA and embarked on a successful career in the residential and commercial construction industry. As you were growing up, did you know you wanted to eventually be part of the family tradition of stewarding this unique piece of land, or did you want to pursue a different path?
A: As with any teenager, I wanted to leave Medford and explore the world. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I would want to return someday, but I do not think I would have admitted that. It was not until I was in my mid-twenties living in Seattle commuting three hours a day to and from work that I started to reflect on where I came from and realized Medford was where I belonged and wanted to raise my family. My wife, Oakley, grew up in Klamath Falls, so, asking her to move back to Southern Oregon wasn’t much of a stretch. Meanwhile, I was fortunate that my father had built this amazing business that had become a staple of East Medford, and I became aware how special this land is not only to my family but also the community. Sometimes you need to take a step back to get a better perspective on what life has blessed us with.
Q: Your sister, Owner/CFO Crissie Olson, grew up eager to work in the family business, but she first gained experience in both public and private accounting before returning to RoxyAnn. In addition to her CPA, she also earned an MBA. Both of you followed in the footsteps of your father, a Harvard MBA with a passion for artisan farming. How do Crissie’s strengths complement your own as together you helm the family enterprise?
A: The importance of a good education was ingrained into us by our parents, so it is no surprise to me that both of us pursued MBAs. I would say it was more of our competitive nature that drove us to get MBAs. I remember telling Crissie I was going back to school to get my MBA, and I could see the fire in her eyes, and she was pretty much resolved to do the same and then one-upped me by getting her accounting credential as well. Crissie has a meticulous attention for the details in any project she is working on, whereas my strengths lie in seeing the big picture and organizing how to bring it all together. I feel very fortunate that she and her family moved back to Medford in 2019. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have made it through 2020 without her by my side.
Q: In 2017, you hired Capiche’s Chris Cook to conduct a series of secret shopping visits. Over the course of 18 months, Chris worked with the management, tasting room staff, and other employees to identify and help them live the RoxyAnn brand. She brought in your dad to tell the story of the family business so the team could experience the remarkable history behind this place in his own words. What did your team take away from this process, and how did Chris contribute to RoxyAnn’s growing success?
A: I had learned from a prior employer that it is always good for any organization to bring in an outsider to help you see what you are doing right and where you could use some improvement. By 2017, I had given myself the time to fully understand this business and knew that to remain successful, we needed to continue to evolve and grow.
Chris approached me with the idea of conducting a series of secret shopper visits so we could analyze the experiences people were getting on a daily basis when they visited RoxyAnn. The secret shoppers brought to light areas where we had either failed or were unaware that we needed to educate our front-line employees on. First and foremost was the history of this amazing property and hearing it through the eyes of my dad, who had experienced it firsthand while growing up with his grandfather, Reginal Parsons. Secondly, it was learning the simple things—like greeting people when they first enter the door and making them feel noticed and welcome. Simple things that can make or break a customer’s experience in the first few minutes of arriving. Lastly, and frankly probably the most important, was training all the staff to make sure they are asking for the sale at the end of every customer interaction. Staff had to become comfortable with the possibility of rejection, but once they were, our sales started to see a noticeable increase, which in return reflected in their sales bonuses.
Q: Chris’s second major project with you focused on the wine club. Capiche surveyed both current and former members to understand what motivates them to stay—or leave. As part of this process, former members were invited to return. So many rejoined the wine club, this return on investment more than paid for the survey. Most importantly, asking current and former members for their opinions shored up their connection with RoxyAnn. They felt listened to, cared for, and invested in the results. What kind of changes did you make to your wine club offerings after hearing and implementing their recommendations?
A: I will be honest—I don’t remember the exact changes we made after implementing their recommendations. The wine club has been very fluid for us over the years, and we’re always trying to evolve it to stay up with the changing times and direction of the industry. Originally, when the wine club was first started, we offered free wine tastings to club members whenever they came and large, banquet-style wine club releases. However, 2020 required us to take a look at how our wine club functioned and redirect the club benefits accordingly. The first major change we made was only allowing tastings once per week and up to four guests. Additionally, we have changed the releases from large banquet-style with buffet lines to a more intimate setting with reserved seating and smaller groups. This more customer-oriented approach enables us to interact with our wine club members personally, also giving us the opportunity to ask for the sale. We have seen our wine club releases’ weekend sales increase two or three times from what they used to be.
Q: Most recently, Chris worked with your core management team on a strategic planning process through a series of five short sessions. During these sessions, you revisited the brand and nailed down the vision, mission, goals, strategies, and underlying values. This yielded action plans and equipped the team with more clarity and resolve while also ensuring consistent messaging across all communications. How would you describe working with Chris, and what did your team and business gain from this experience?
A: Our most recent interaction with Chris was a direct result of having to maneuver and change gears in 2020. Our work sessions with Chris made Crissie and me take a step back to assess not only the business but staff as well. We were able to redefine staff positions in areas we felt were no longer needed in today’s selling environment. In some cases, that meant removing the position altogether, but we felt it was needed for the long-term health of the company.
The sessions brought our key staff members together and helped us create a common vision for how we were going to progress out of the pandemic healthier and with more energy from every member, top-down and bottom-up, than when we entered the pandemic. It was a great opportunity to get refreshed and excited about what RoxyAnn can offer moving forward and to have input by everyone about the direction we wanted to take moving forward.
Q: Today, RoxyAnn Winery produces 10,000 cases of 17 different varietals and blends from 70 acres of vineyard land. What sets your wines apart in the highly competitive landscape of Southern Oregon wines?
A: Last year, 2020, we reduced our production to offset the loss of sales to on-premises accounts. RoxyAnn sets itself apart from the rest of the Southern Oregon wine industry by first and foremost having an amazing location that is inviting and where people feel comfortable coming to experience the wines of the Rogue Valley. Additionally, we continue to offer great customer service with tasting room associates who are welcoming and excited to educate our customers, new and old, about RoxyAnn Winery and the history of our property. Lastly, our winemaking team continues to produce phenomenal wines that keep our customers coming back for more.
Q: RoxyAnn kicked off 2021 with a new winemaker, Fred Mihm, who inherited the role from Kent Barthman after he retired. How has RoxyAnn’s winemaking philosophy evolved over the years, and what does Fred bring to the barrel?
A: Fred Mihm is hardly new to RoxyAnn. Fred Mihm has been our assistant winemaker for the better part of 14 years. I tell people he has trained our last three winemakers. It was Fred’s turn to step into the role of winemaker after being the understudy to three amazing gentlemen who paved the way. The winemaking philosophy at RoxyAnn was established from the very beginning when my father demanded that we produce high-quality wines at a reasonable price point. In the 20 years that RoxyAnn has been in business, we have only see one price change, which happened in 2014 when we raised most of our wines by $2.00 per bottle.
Fred continues to bring the consistent style of wines that RoxyAnn is known for. Fred’s ongoing influence in the wine will continue for many vintages to come. I am excited to have Fred by my side as we move into the next 20 years of RoxyAnn Winery.
Q: Nearly a dozen structures on the family property have earned spots on the National Register of Historic Places, including your tasting room, the Honor Barn. Describe the atmosphere of the tasting room and compelling offerings such as the Wine + Music Series.
A: There is nothing quite like walking into a hundred-year-old barn and looking around at the rough-sawn lumber that was brought down from a tree farm we still own on the Siskiyou Mountains. The building is inviting and comforting. The atmosphere is unpretentious and welcoming. We want all our customers to walk in the door and feel like they are at home. Our staff is warm and inviting and ready to engage with you to experience the wines cultivated on land cultivated by our family for 120 years. We are very fortunate to have the location we do, surrounded by our neighbors in East Medford. Our Wine + Music Series brings our community together to relax and enjoy themselves as well as the beautiful scenery and weather we are blessed with here in Southern Oregon.
Q: RoxyAnn weddings are a magical experience. Why should a couple choose Hillcrest Orchard for their memorable day?
A: The Rogue Valley has many beautiful venues one could get married at, but only a few have the history and beauty RoxyAnn Winery and Hillcrest Orchard can provide. The groom and bride can stay in the historic Estate House on their wedding night, or if they prefer a quainter setting, they can stay in either the Cottage or Carriage House. If the location doesn’t seal the deal, having an amazing estate winery on the grounds to serve to your guests should. We do our best to provide an unforgettable experience for all our wedding guests so they will have fond memories for years to come.
Q: RoxyAnn shares an endearing camaraderie with its sister wineries Dunbar Farms and 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery, and you’re currently partnering with these two wineries on an Oregon Wine Month promotion. Can you share more details about this opportunity and explain what makes East Medford such a compelling destination for wine-lovers?
A: Since I have arrived back in the Southern Oregon, I have always wanted to form some kind of East Medford Wine Trail, but it is tough to entice visitors to only visit one or two wineries. At different points in the last nine years, we have had two other wineries close by—first with Dunbar Farms and then with 2Hawk. Now all three of us are up and running with regular business hours, so I jumped at the opportunity to start some cooperative marketing between the three different entities.
Oregon Wine Month 2021 is just the beginning of what I see as being a great partnership between three amazing families. For this year’s Oregon Wine Month, 2Hawk, Dunbar, and RoxyAnn are giving away $150 in gift cards to three different winners for anyone who visits all three wineries during the month of May and leaves their information on a card we give them to be drawn out of a hat after the end of the month. We are educating our consumers that all three of us are here in East Medford and encouraging them to frequent our businesses.
Q: What’s in store for the future of RoxyAnn Winery, and do your kids look forward to becoming the fifth generation to care for this precious piece of earth?
A: Our kids are too young for us or them to know what the future holds. We hope RoxyAnn Winery will be here in some form or another for the next generation, but this is also a very valuable piece of land in the middle of Medford with a lot of potential. There will be homes built on the 250 acres that makes up Hillcrest Orchard and RoxyAnn Winery, but we have also set aside 50 acres that will remain agricultural land for generations to come.