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Lone Canary owner looking to sell winery

Fri., April 30, 2010

Despite staff layoffs, tastings, sales continue

Lone Canary is in danger of extinction.

Winemaker and businessman Don Townshend purchased the small Spokane winery recently with plans to keep the business running as usual. Financial losses and lagging sales forced him to lay off the staff earlier this month, including winemaker Mike Scott, Townshend said. “The economics weren’t good when I bought it and it just got worse.”

Townshend said once he realized the deep losses, he tried to work with Scott to turn things around. “I threw so much money away,” he said, “I could have started a winery from scratch.”

The owner and winemaker of Townshend Cellars, he also purchased Caterina Winery this year. Now Townshend is looking for a buyer for the struggling Lone Canary, at 109 S. Scott St., Suite B2. “If we do sell it soon, there might be a possibility it would stay the way it was,” he said.

Townshend took over Lone Canary operations in June. The sale was finalized the first of this year. Businessman Steve Schaub and winemaker Scott opened the winery in 2003. Scott previously worked as a winemaker at Caterina, Latah Creek, Worden’s and Livingstone wineries in Spokane.

Scott said he was hesitant to talk about the circumstances surrounding Lone Canary’s fall, but said he’s hopeful the right buyer could still save it. “I would leap at the chance if it became possible for me to pick up the reins and take Lone Canary to better places,” he said.

Scott added, “The lot of a small winery is, at best, a difficult one. We did feel the effect of the downturn in the economy and (it) was unfortunately timed to coincide with Don’s takeover of the winery. I do not believe in any way that the people working at Lone Canary were in any way a contributing factor to the financial difficulties that we encountered.”

Scott said he regrets he wasn’t able to thank customers before the April 12 layoffs.

Lone Canary will remain open for tastings and wine sales through the end of May. Townshend will decide what to do next if he can’t find a buyer, but he said he would probably move the wines to Caterina while contemplating the next move.

Staff from Townshend’s other wineries will tend the tasting room, generally open Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Lone Canary also will be open for the Spokane Winery Association’s Spring Barrel Tasting May 7-9, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

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