Jason Haynes and Raymond Ringer might be the most popular guys in Rockport, Maine. Aside from their kindness and humor, just the charming Texan drawl that comes out of their mouths when they ask how a customer is doing is enough to make anyone adore them. It also doesn't hurt that they're the owners of the Rayr, the best wine shop in the state. Jason and Ray, after whom Jason named the store (a fusion of Ray and rare), founded the business in 2008. Ray, who designs and builds furniture, built the beautiful counter behind which you can usually find Jason and their little Yorkshire Terrier, Sydney (who has eight cashmere sweaters to his name).
This past weekend was the store's third anniversary. I'd forgotten Rayr was that young; it's such a successful business and neighborhood fixture I feel like it's been there forever. People go to read or to meet friends for coffee, seeing as Jason makes what my cousin from New York City dubbed "the best latte on the east coast." But of course, the main draw for most is the copious wine, beer, and liquor selections--Rayr carries over 250 different wines under $25, and over 300 that cost more than that. Whether you're looking to splurge or save, Jason knows exactly what to suggest. I, for one, always agree with his taste, and particularly enjoyed his suggestions of Bear Boat's Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in California and the St. Innocent Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
The wines are fabulous, as are the fine candles, chocolates, and the espresso bar. But I think my favorite part about Rayr coming to Rockport has been the sense of community that Jason and Ray have grown with their business. Whenever anyone goes to a friends' house for dinner they stop by to ask Jason and Ray what bottle of wine to bring as a gift. The two usually know what to recommend because they know what the host, who is also likely their customer, enjoys. It's the beauty of a small town and shows how much Jason and Ray care about contributing to it, supplying great wines and goodies, and taking the time to make each person who enters the store feel at home.
If Rockport were a high school, they'd be the prom kings.
Ray built the racks himself, and came up with the genius idea of chalkboard along the shelves to mark prices.
In addition to carrying goods from all over the world, Jason and Ray pay homage to their adopted home state, devoting a shelf to Maine-made wines, beers, and liquors. Above, a sampling of their selection.
Jason hard at work behind the counter.
These fabulous light fixtures are for sale, too!
My downfall: Black Dinah Chocolates. But that story is for a post of its own.
The heaven scent (get it?) candles from Aquiesse. These were the BTotD a few days ago.
Jason never fails to make me smile with his blackboard writings.
Anyone who tells you they don't choose to buy a wine by its label is lying.
I couldn't help myself. How do you go into a store selling Veuve and not take a picture?
One day two summers ago, my mom sent my cousin Ben and me to Rayr to get some liquor for a party. She wanted gin, scotch, and we thought she'd need a vodka as well. We made our choices and put it on her tab at Rayr (because Jason trusts his customers). Since seeing that bill she hasn't asked us to go back since. I guess Macallan is more expensive than we realized. But so, so good.
Boxes stacked in the back room.
This little guy greets customers as they come in. I've always loved these mannequins, and this one is a great color.