By Morgan Bryce
The country’s largest by-the-glass selection wine bar is expanding its downtown Opelika location.
Ampersand Wine Bar, owned and operated by Opelika native Nelson Marsh, will fill the void left in the same building by artisan maker/shop Factory South on South Railroad Avenue, which closed in January.
Marsh shared some of his plans for Ampersand, which includes the addition of nearly 75 seats, cellar, new decor, wine appreciation courses and more.
“We’re going to build out a new, L-shaped bar up front, and use this space here in the back for hosting private events and as a VIP area. We’ll be re-theming our aesthetics too and going more with an art deco, art nouveau (style) and pushing back from the eclectic mid-century look that we have right now,” Marsh said. “Another big thing is adding in a proper wine cellar … I have some really fantastic reserve wines coming in that I’m excited for our customers (to try).”
Ampersand opened in November 2016. Starting with only 25-30 bottles by the glass, Marsh said that number has grown to nearly 300.
“We don’t have any menus and we let people sample anything they want. So, you can have a taste of the world’s number-one Riesling, something incredible from Bordeaux or something fun and funky from Spain and Italy,” Marsh said. “Whenever I go to tastings or a wine-related event, I have people ask me ‘where are you doing this?’, and they can’t believe I’m doing it here in downtown Opelika. We have people here that travel around the world … and if they go somewhere like New York (City), Paris or London and have a great wine experience, where they can go around here and find something similar? I think that’s where we fit in and culturally, downtown Opelika is a great place for this concept.”
Marsh said he expects Ampersand’s expansion to be completed in early August. Once completed, he said he will hold a grand re-opening party for patrons and visitors to experience the new look and feel of the wine bar.
Despite the changes, Marsh said the bar will maintain its laid-back, quiet ambience and charm.
“I still think that we’re providing something unique for folks here in downtown. It’s a place you can go on a date night and it’s not loud or packed full of students,” Marsh said. “There’s no tv’s and we still do all of our music on vinyl. So, it’s just a calmer, quieter experience for someone who wants to have a nice night out.”
For non-wine drinkers, Marsh said there is a small selection of craft beers available.
Ampersand’s hours are 3-10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
The wine bar is located at 817 S. Railroad Ave. Follow the business’s Instagram page for updates.