One Woman Turns Lemons into Wine

Smalltown stories scaling up to universalities all people can learn from

Bayside Cellars (Waldport, OR)  proprietor just getting started — Community Journalism gets to the soul of humanity and our connections to the larger world. First appeared in Newport News Times 

Pulling out all the skills one gains through living, working and surviving can turn a dream into a going concern. One Waldport entrepreneur is digging being her own boss, expressing creativity in her hospitality business and turning into the toast of the town. Bayside Cellars is Shauna Flynn’s wine “bar” inspired by her years in the catering and food business and her desire to provide a meeting place for Waldport residents and visitors.

The joint is located a stone’s throw away from the Port of Alsea.

I met Flynn a year ago while bicycling along the streets of wild and wooly Waldport. I saw the sign, “Bayside Cellars,” noticed the deep red Adirondack chairs out front, and espied the open front door, so I jumped off my saddle to see what was up.

Conceptually, being part of a node of eateries — the Azul Mexican restaurant, Salty Dog, Pacific Sourdough, Lazy Dayz Café, two crab joints and the soon-to-be finished, Chill — makes sense to Flynn as a way to garner a critical mass of people interested in dining and wining.

That day a year ago our sky was blue, and surprisingly there was no wind to speak of, and the temperature was barely breaking 58 degrees.

Flynn asked me questions, and I got to talking about some of my current and recent interests and gigs working to help adults with developmental disabilities get jobs; helping veterans get service-connected disability status hearings and housing; assisting homeless families and individuals find housing.

Two things struck Flynn deeply, which opened up the floodgates of her telling me about her journey to include several iterations of herself as a woman: my work with foster youth in the Independent Living Program and my assistance for a friend currently going through the legal hurdles of seeing her husband/abuser get his due justice.

“I’m a product of a foster background, so I know exactly what sorts of things foster youths have to face,” she said while showing me around the two-room wine and small bites business. “And I am a survivor of a long-term domestic abuse relationship.”

She showed me around the sitting rooms, the small kitchen, and the back “cellar” where chilled wines and beers fill chillers.

Wine love and a place to break bread

On one of the walls of her business, the word LOVE is spelled out with old metal letters. She repeated that her tasting business is all about the love she put into it and the love she hopes people can find just meeting here.

When Flynn speaks about love, she’s not talking Hallmark stuff.

“So many women I talked to this evening told me they know no one in Waldport, but tonight, they met new friends,” Flynn told me at her grand opening July 7. “I think of this wine tasting business as a meeting place, a safe place for people to get reacquainted and to find new friends.”

I circulated during the opening, talking to short-term residents, visitors and others who were third generation Walportians.

I met the owner of the Pacific Sourdough Bakery, as well as a few of her bakers and salespeople. People were not exactly in their cups when they opened up to me.

One 40-year-old from Bend introduced me to her mother and stepfather. Her five-year-old son was engrossed in a game on the phone. This woman and I bonded as she is a K12 teacher, in ESL, living and working in Bend. Her fellow teachers were considering a strike vote for better wages, smaller class sizes and more counselors.

“I’m telling you, education — the teaching profession — has gotten so bad, really so bad. But on a better note, there’s my mom. She’s from here, and lives in her mother’s house. I went to school here. I think it’s great that Shauna opened this place up for people to actually have conversations, Flynn said.”

I’d say the demographics the opening night was 70 percent female, with a median age of 60. I talked with an old timer (80) who was his wife’s designated driver; he wanted to tell me about a memoir he is writing covering his U.S. Navy days stationed in Malaysia.

Flynn rang a bell, and another raffle ensued; the crowd — around 40 — was engrossed in their ticket numbers.

Before sitting down to have a serious discussion with Flynn, I hit up her LinkedIn Page, always an interesting way to see a person’s public persona:

• 20-plus years of real estate experience;

• 20-plus years of hospitality experience.

“I’ve worked half of my life in real estate and the other half of my life in hospitality, and both at the same time. Began a life in real estate straight out of high school, years of independently building one successful career that later lead me in becoming a successful nationwide commercial loan broker. I built my hospitality career in different parts of the world, playing key roles and winning awards in restaurant and event management to most recently helping to create and build extremely successful multi-million dollar catering companies.

“I’m a landlord, an entrepreneur, a volunteer and strong supporter of my community. I use my intuition, experience, creativity, passion and drive to carry me through to my next project with confidence and intend to exceed in whatever it is I decide to tackle along the way.

“I’m checking off my life goals one box at a time and also helping people along the way. You won’t find me at the finish line … you’ll find me helping others make it there too. It’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

She puts her money where her mouth is. Shauna has been a mentor for Big Brothers and Sisters of America; a dog foster mother for Imagine Peace For Pups Foundation; and a kitchen volunteer for Portland’s Rescue Mission.

When I stopped by a few weeks ago, she was in the middle of pricing her inventory. She talked about having her small business available for any group wanting to raise funds or a gathering place for any kind of confab. We talked about Grace Wins staying afloat with a new director, and Shauna said: “I’d be honored to help them help with any fundraiser.”

We discussed the Newport mayor’s resignation tied to alleged racist and anti-LGBTQ remarks. “I’m all in full, rainbow flag all the way. It’s way past time for that way of thinking (anti-BIPOC and LGBTQA talk) to go away.” She’s thinking about having a sidewalk chalk art contest soon, as another way to bring people together while giving part of the proceeds for groups fighting for the homeless.

Living in chaos

The 40-year- old was born in Vernonia, Oregon. While she graduated from Vernonia High, having competed on the JV and varsity volleyball teams as well as being class president, her life was not always a bed of roses. Her parents divorced when she was four, and alas, she was brought up, in her words, by a woman who was not caring, not a nurturing mother.

“It was daily abuse by her. There were five children, and the brothers ran away from home. I was in fifth grade when I was placed in foster care.”

She moved around to various foster homes, including ones in St. Helens and Clatskanie, but ended up being adopted by the last foster parents in Scappoose.

“It was a good break from my mom’s abuse. I was so much happier away from her.”

At 16, her prom night was ruined by her mother, who attacked her, messing up her fancy hair-do and the prom dress her adopted sisters bought her.

She credits good teachers and involved coaches for her thriving and excelling. “I wasn’t a bad kid, but I had challenges because of the verbal abuse at home. Some learning disabilities. I thrived because I had people who actually cared for me, and their eyes lit up when I was in their presence.”

Again, this is a tale of emancipation, a story of surviving, and a narrative of going beyond the bad cards dealt a woman.

A slow reader early on, she was almost held back in second grade, but she impressed the teacher who had never called on her when Shauna read the advanced readers’ section of a book.

She recalled when in fifth grade she won a writing contest and was invited as one of only a few to a writing festival. “That was the year I went to foster care, so I missed the festival.”

I asked her what she wanted to do when she got older, and she said that in the yearbook she wrote, “In 10 years I want to be happy with a VW van traveling around the U.S.”

She ended up marrying one of the sons of her foster parents, right out of high school. She had been working at Subway for four years when she met a woman who gave Shauna her business card. She worked as a Realtor with Windermere. Shauna asked her how one becomes a Realtor, and soon after she was hired on, and even got half her license paid for by the Scappoose office.

“I think I might have been the youngest licensed Realtor in Oregon at age 19.” She cleaned homes, managed apartments and for two years she didn’t even have a car.

She ended up taking old listings, some of which had been on the market for 10 years, and becoming a rock star. She also did appraisals for banks.

Fast forward to Hawaii, and she’s working at the Hard Rock Café in Waikiki. She got her real estate license there as well. She got to see the world, but not in the microbus. She loved Italy, traveled throughout that culinary standout. She also had been divorced and started dating an Italian, who admitted he had a fiancé one year into the relationship.

She traveled to Sydney, Australia, and worked at the Tap Room, one of the best pubs in Australia with all sorts of celebrities like Nicole Kidman hanging out there.

She told me she learned about good beer and wine working there, and her goal was to get a two-year visa to work in an Australian vineyard to learn all the ins and outs of wine making.

The many iterations of a woman not interrupted

The reality is this business owner has had more than four stages or variations on a theme in her life. She did talk at length about domestic abuse, to include several relationships she had with men where she was abused. We talked about the ACE’s scale used in K12 – adverse childhood events. Shauna had many ACE’s in her youth, witnessing her mother with other men, the physical abuse, the verbal abuse, a missing biological father, financial struggles, and more.

In my work with foster youth, the strikes against a successful young adulthood are pretty plentiful in similar situations as Shauna’s. But she overcame most of them, worked her fingers to bone, and had dreams, big ones.

Her Achilles Heel, she admits, were those bad intimate relationships. The put downs, lack of a mother even noticing a daughter’s accomplishments, physical violence, all of that, it’s a recipe for entering into abusive relationships.

Now she’s got the great friend and boyfriend, Jason, who lives and works in Vancouver, having put down more than 24 years in the bread business. Shauna’s swung some financial deals to land a duplex in Southeast, Portland, both units now being rented. She also has a duplex in Waldport, where she lives on one side and rents out the other side as a short-term vacation unit.

The Bayside Cellars is just getting off the ground, with Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays open to the public. Then the other days she is availing herself to head up special events like weddings, anniversaries or any sort of event that requires her culinary skills and wine pairing acumen.

For the Waldport Chamber of Commerce in September, Bayside Cellars is hosting the food, wine and beer.

She’s looking to promote Bayside Cellars for many special events. As a one-woman show, with a duplex in Portland to attend to, the one in Waldport, and now with a condo she just signed for in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico, she’s a busy woman.

Her goal is to give people that safe, clean place to meet and talk. She is engaging with her customers, no longer that shy kid who ended up not talking publicly until fifth grade. Her pet peeve continues to be supporting the hospitality business, and making sure folk know that tipping wait staff and cooks is the right thing to do.

She thinks Waldport has much potential, and hopes to see the businesses and political leaders marketing it as a walkable and bikeable town. She thinks a dog park or two would make Waldport highly attractive to visitors. “Most of my short-term rental residents have a dog or several.”

She emphasizes that young people come into Lincoln County, from Portland or Eugene, and they prefer a rental over a motel. She wishes people would be more accommodating to that demographic.

Shauna Flynn is a member of the Waldport community, and she wants people to feel as if they can contact her for any catering ideas. She ran her own one in Portland, Buenos Dias, and she made the Portland Monthly summer edition in 2019.

Just imagine these bit-sized culinary delights Shauna has concocted: All on skewers.

Chimi-roja masa bite — fried up Three Sisters Nixtamal Masa, served up with zucchini and radish, and topped with red chimichurri sauce. Or Pequeños rellenos — colorful, sweet mini peppers stuffed with Willamette Valley quinoa. Or, think of this at your next anniversary soiree: Carne asada with chimichurri. Maybe coconut shrimp?

Maybe she’ll get that VW Van and travel Lincoln County with her bites and wine samplings. Who knows what’s next for Shauna Flynn, a woman never interrupted.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.