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Sommelier, musician couple in Coeur d’Alene come together to make Stylus Wine and Vinyl Bar

Krista and Robby French, owners of Stylus Wine and Vinyl Bar in Coeur d’Alene, are taking a new approach to wine and music by bringing it to some place unexpected.

“The way Coeur d’Alene has embraced it … it’s not for everyone because we are doing something in a small city that is successful in larger cities and metropolises like San Diego to New York and Nashville,” Robby said.

But it’s not just where Stylus is located that makes it different from other spaces.

“We’re not a typical wine bar,” Robby said. “People have this initial preconceived notion of, ‘Oh, it’s just going to be like … quiet and chill … with elevator music in the background,’ and that’s not what we are. We wanted to take the concept of everything we love about wine and food and music and turn it on its head.”

The Frenches have been together for 20 years and for six of those years, they’ve enjoyed their days off listening to their collection of records, drinking wine while cooking dinner and dreaming of a place that combines their two favorite things.

“After maybe too many bottles of wine we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place we could go to drink wine and listen to records?’ We didn’t think it would be our place … and then it just evolved into, ‘We need to do it because nobody else will,’ ” Robby said.

Then, when COVID hit, “It forced people … to look at their lives and say, ‘Do I want to continue doing what I’m doing once things open up or do I wanna do something different?’ ” Robby said.

So, they decided to change it up.

“We just took the jump and I’m stoked that we did because we’re own bosses now,” Robby said.

Krista and Robby moved to Coeur d’Alene in 1996 and have been calling it home ever since, so of course when they wanted to open Stylus, it had to be in Coeur d’Alene.

“Our family is here, and we have our lifetime friends here,” Robby said, “and the cards just lined up perfectly in late 2021 when we met with a friend of ours, who’s a Realtor here and there was a space that was available. Everything just clicked.”

Krista is a CMS-certified sommelier, so she handles the wine side of Stylus, and Robby is a musician who has been in different bands for the last 20 years and is currently spinning records at Stylus and performing as a solo artist.

Before Stylus was possible, Krista and Robby traveled the world, and now they credit the ambience of Stylus to their travels to France.

“We are a French-focused wine bar,” Robby said.

“We’ve traveled the world a lot and we wanna bring those … experiences back to our business and share them with people,” Krista said.

Despite all the international influences, Stylus’ design still feels like home.

“We modeled the decor in the bar after what our house looks like. … We just want it to be a safe place for people to come in and feel comfortable.”

Like many restaurants, Stylus has its regulars that use it as an escape. One regular, Krista said, is “probably 68 years old, she has an 85-year-old mom that’s sick and living with her now and she comes in once a week and orders a glass of wine and our smoked duck. And she says it’s her respite from her stress,” Krista said.

Everyone is welcome at Stylus, “doesn’t matter what color you are, if you like boys or girls … gay people, straight people, trans people … it’s about anybody that wants to come to Coeur d’Alene or come to Stylus and just feel like we love them and we want to take care of him and they’re gonna have a good time,” Krista said.

Following a police arrest in 2022 in Coeur d’Alene of 31 masked individuals found in the back of a U-Haul van during a pride celebration, Krista hung a pride flag over the bar.

“I put it up there after all that crap happened,” Krista said. “It made me mad.”

The flag has caused some controversy for the wine and vinyl bar. Some customers have made comments about it, even going as far as calling their food a derogatory name for gay people.

Robby and Krista didn’t understand the comment at first. “We were so confused … we’re like … ‘Is it like feminine food?’ and then we’re like, ‘Oh, it’s the pride flag.’ We were so confused,” Krista said.

The comment didn’t bother Krista or Robby.

“I don’t even think of it as a thing to have it hanging up there,” Krista said. It’s just a part of Stylus.

By bringing this combination of wine and records to Coeur d’Alene, Robby and Krista have realized, “not everybody’s gonna love or embrace what you do. … You can’t make every single person happy,” Robby said.

“We know what we’re doing is what we wanna do and we’re doing it the best way we know how,” Robby added. “You can’t appease everyone, and you shouldn’t.”

The bar is host to Wax Wednesdays, when customers can bring in their own vinyl to have it played and get a discount on a drink.

Two customers who frequented Wax Wednesdays didn’t know each other and have since built a close friendship, Krista said.

“Now they hang out every Wednesday,” Krista said. “That’s something that I always think about, like if we shut down tomorrow, the fact that we brought people together. … It just makes me so happy.”

Robby and Krista are always exploring new ways to engage with the community beyond being open Wednesday through Sunday.

“I’m working on doing Sunday classes at Stylus … either the second or the fourth Sunday, once a month,” Krista said. “It’ll be a Wine 101 class just to teach people the basics of wine and wine tasting.”

Robby plays guitar and will be performing as a solo artist on July 19 at the Coeur d’Alene Bouy Bar and at the Black Rock Country Club on Friday, June 28. He also DJs for events and parties along with the help of some of the other DJ’s that work at Stylus.

Stylus has a wide range of wines from different regions of Italy and Walla Walla.

“Most of them are from Walla Walla … which is how I started falling in love with wine and those are the people that I started learning from in the first place,” Krista said. “I just love supporting Pacific Northwest wineries, and I just love the people.”

One of Robby’s favorite wines is red Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region of Italy, and Krista likes listening to Whiney Houston while enjoying a high tannin Barbaresco.

To best complement the wine, Stylus serves a range of French-inspired food. Their most popular food items are the snacks, especially the Snacks with Mum, which is a chef’s choice of cheeses, meats and little nibbles. The croque-monsieur sandwich with French ham and the smoked duck breast with brown sugar and garlic are other popular picks.

Before Stylus, Krista and Robby only had one day off a week, and they spent it doing what they loved. Now they get to do what they love every day.

“When you see somebody’s face, and you have no idea who they are, they just walk into your business, and they’re really having a good time and enjoying themselves … it’s rewarding on such another level,” Robby said. “I would say that’s probably the most enjoyable part about owning Stylus.”