Kelsey began her talk by asking Rotarians questions which, when answered, gained the responder a wooden token that may be redeemed for a free glass of wine. Eventually, Kelsey allowed anyone who wished to take home a token or two. When Marion mentioned her group of moms who occasionally get together, she received a handful of tokens and encouragement to bring in the whole crew.
Kelsey was born in Coos Bay, Oregon. [NOTE:  this is not pronounced “ko-oss” like the county in New Hampshire. Instead, it’s “kooss”.] Her mother went back to college at Dartmouth, taking Kelsey with her. While her mom received her degree with the class of 1992, Kelsey attended Hanover’s Ray School; she even accompanied her mother during a term of language study in Spain.
They then moved to North Carolina where Kelsey attended high school before getting her own degree at Dartmouth with the class of 2005, where she was a Senior Fellow and English major and met her husband—they’ve been together for 22 years and have two children—a 10-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. Her husband is an attorney for META, specializing in product integrity. Kelsey began her career in California, “creating companies dealing in the healthcare field.”
Reporting a “Covid moment” while deep into her software career in Silicon Valley, Kelsey decided to return to Hanover. They bought house off a FaceTime tour, sold everything except her vintage Airstream camper, and arrived in the Upper Valley three years ago, where Kelsey tried to be a stay-at-home mom. Hint:  It didn’t work.
Kelsey decided she wanted to create a “third space,” as sociology puts it. One’s first space is home, second space is work, and the third should be a space of peace, like Rotary. She wanted to create the feel of a speakeasy and found the right space in downtown WRJ’s freight yard building at the opposite end from the Elixir restaurant.
Kelsey missed California’s outdoor drinking establishments, which were not about drinking to excess, but more about the venue and whom you are with. She missed a place to go on date nights with hubby or friends. Her intention is to recreate the outdoor feel but not outdoors in a climate of 30 below zero or 90 above with high humidity! She calls it “outdoor/indoor drinking,” surrounding patrons with some 400 plants managed by a high school girl. She wants visitors to feel surrounded by plants, even offering “picnic food” that pairs well with wines.
During her career and travels, Kelsey became enamored with the world of wine, studying everything from the chemistry of its production to the land and growth conditions of various vineyards, etc., etc. She took sommelier courses and became “a big believer in educational drinking.” She said, “I love everything about wine. It’s the sun around which everything else happens.” Kelsey quoted Benjamin Franklin as saying, “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” [I thought the following was also attributed to Ben: “Beer is a sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” There’s room for both, I assume.]
At the same time, Kelsey spent a good deal of time studying her genealogy, discovering roots with the Putnam family which arrived in Salem, MA, in the 17th century, although she’d previously thought her family had native American origins. One of her great-grandfathers was Seth Putnam, who settled in Middlesex, VT, cementing Kelsey’s feeling of ties to this region.
In creating “Putnam’s,” Kelsey did everything just the way she wanted, performing much of the space renovations herself. She said, “It feels like I’m living my dream in a space designed for me.” She introduced us in one of her slides to the five women who operate the business.
Here are various highlights of Kelsey’s description of Putnam’s:
  • Staff member Victoria has a diploma in wine, is the sommelier, and last night taught a 90-minute class on the Wines of Italy.
  • A major focus for Kelsey is supporting other women entrepreneurs, such as Katie, the Bagel Lady, by sharing her space with them.
  • Believing that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and stating, “I love to drink, not cook, so love inviting cooks,” Kelsey spends a lot of time focused on pop-up events highlighting local entrepreneurs.
  • Foodie Fridays with pretzels.
  • Amy Davis Jewelry.
  • Saturdays—Mimosa flights with brunch paired with a woman entrepreneur. Every Sunday, eat or take home bagels from Katie.
  • Using the stage not for concerts, but for things like flamenco guitar or quiet jazz.
  • A mom’s group.
  • A “Sipping Singles” group.
  • “Vine School”—bouquets, or how to make three-season raised garden beds.
  • Using local vendors: Moco—a Norwich company. Farm cheddar. Kiss the Farm Creamery in Barnard for milk.
  • Putnam’s is a Bar*Shop*School—They can order specialty wines if you like; there’s a little gift shop; they serve varied coffees and can host private parties.
  • Lilith is the staff and events manager, also seeking out local entrepreneurs for partnerships.
  • The space’s former stage is the classroom—seats twelve comfortably with two picnic tables. The bar’s maximum capacity is 70.
Kelsey said she chooses wines that are interesting to drink and have stories with them. She changes the menu quarterly. “Flights” consist of half-pours to give patrons a chance to try things—wines they may not have chosen otherwise or that may be normally out of their price range.