Chelsea Gets Brand New Wine Shop


Jay Friend

Jay Friend came to the conclusion in the last three years that what his adoptive hometown, Chelsea, really needed was a new craft beer and wine store. That is why he has just opened Withington’s, to fill that need.

“I really want to focus on all of the differences with wine and beer. Whether it’s something as simple as a pilsner beer, or a really cool craft beer, or an old brewery, that’s been doing beer for generations. And the same with wine: there are some winemakers doing some really cool and interesting wines. I certainly intend to follow those trends and introduce people to what’s happening in the industry,” Owner Jay Friend said.

After 20 years in the industry, Friend decided to open his new store on the eastern side of Main Street, between Middle Street and the railroad tracks. Lit shelves line the wall displaying dozens of varieties of wines, meads, and crafts beers underneath artwork prepared by Mr. Friend’s father.

“We are very excited to have Jay opening his new business, Withington’s, in downtown Chelsea. He is our newest Chamber member, and we believe he will be an amazing addition to the community. We look forward to his success,” Terris Ahrens, Executive Director of the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

Although Friend is confident in establishing his new business at 112 North Main Street, he is also affected by the global supply chain issues that are still plaguing the economy as a consequence of the Coronavirus. Getting enough glass for wine bottles, for example, is a major issue that Friend said has led so many beer, and wine manufacturers to switch to cans instead. Friend is expecting that to be a permanent change.

Jay Friend with some of his craft beer selection.

About 15 wine options and a wide variety of craft beer available come from Michigan. Friend calls Michigan one of the cutting edge epicenters of the craft beer movement and told this newspaper that he wants to bring both of the best of craft beer and wine to the neighborhood. Friend is using his extensive range of contacts in the decades of his experience in the industry to bring hard to find products to town.

“I am not trying to compete with the major grocery stores. This is a curated wine and beer [setup],” Friend said. “These are all wines that I have tasted, or at least know about the regions and can talk about.”

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