With a little help from her friends, Lyndsey Jacques gave her favorite neighborhood wine bar a new lease on life.
Mix one part tradition with a good dose of ambition and you’ll begin to see how Beaujo’s became Bojae’s in Edina’s 50th & France neighborhood. This favorite neighborhood haunt is an evolutionary tale, with two common denominators: a female network of visionaries and a woman named April.
Lyndsey Jacques, owner of Bojae’s Wine Bar & Bistro, says the wine bar, under its former name and concept (Beaujo’s), “was my favorite local, neighborhood bar—and then COVID-19 hit.” She had just moved into the neighborhood and wanted to make sure the spot where “everyone knew everyone” never went away. Jacques says she had been coming in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat at the restaurant for seven years before she would eventually call it her own.
As the neighborhood began to emerge from the pandemic, her father, Steve Scheck, challenged Jacques to “put her money where her mouth is” when she worried the old Beaujo’s might struggle. So, she summoned up the courage and called owner Amanda Wagner to ask what it might take to sell her the wine bar. Much to her surprise, Wagner welcomed her call.
Next, she reached out to the women in her life to help her turn her dream into what became a daily education. “I didn’t know anything about running a restaurant,” Jacques says. “I called my sister-in-law, who is a CFO, and she taught me how to look at the financials. I called a great friend, who’s an attorney, and she said, ‘Well, you’ve got to have an LLC,’ so she set that up for me.”
She agreed on the terms with Wagner, and then she needed to learn to negotiate a lease. Suzanne Haugland, a nearby business owner, helped her with the finer points, teaching her how to pursue tenant improvements and even how to update the furnishings; but she warned Jacques not to do it. “She said, ‘You won’t make money,’ and we both laughed,” Jacques says. Haugland, owner of At Home and Co., added her interior design talents to the look and feel—changing the lighting, painting the ceilings and hanging a mirror. Jacques then added artwork from her photographer friend, Stephanie Morris.
“I have this incredible network of women … I had all these women helping me, but I had absolutely no experience, just this vision to save this favorite wine bar for the neighborhood,” Jacques says.
Before opening the doors, she still had one more woman to reach out to: April Diekman. Diekman had worked at the wine bar for both Wagner and the previous owner, and Jacques knew this wouldn’t work without her. “I asked April to help. I would not have purchased [the bar] without her commitment,” Jacques says. “She hired the staff for me and runs the show.”
Jacques celebrated her first anniversary this past November. “It’s been crazy. When we opened the doors, the neighborhood said, ‘Thank you so much.’ Every day, someone comes in and says, ‘I used to come here years ago; you’ve done so much to bring it back to life.’”
Jacques shares how she came up with the new name and her logo, almost as if it was kismet. “Bojae was my dad’s nickname, after a poodle he had growing up as a kid. He said, ‘If you name it after me, I’ll pay for the sign, but you have to promise me you’ll never put a TV in here,’” Jacques says. Her focus is on giving guests a place to come to get out of a snowstorm, catch up with friends, share a bite to eat and enjoy a glass of wine or beer.
“There are no distractions, which was what I fell in love with about this place,” Jacques says. “Guests come to chat, hang out … I see lots of first dates here.” Love has a lot to do with it for Jacques, who says she and her now husband Louis had one of their first dates at the bar in 2018. “Last April, we got married here. It was a surprise 60th birthday party, which became an engagement; we got married that same night.”
But there have also been tears, Jacques says. Food costs, inventory and payroll are just some of the things she says she’s had to learn a lot about. “Every time we have an employee meeting, I look at our team and I say, ‘We are building a plane as we fly it,’” she says. “And that’s damn scary because I hate to fly.”
She says she hasn’t made a profit yet. But she didn’t take out a loan either, after gathering fiscal resources from the sale of her former home, some retirement funding and a gift from her father to make it all work. She credits the reopening of nearby shops and the movie theater down the street with helping bring in some younger patrons, too. “In March, when the weather is bad or it’s just too cold to drive, people put on their snow boots and walk down the block for a nice glass of wine.”
From the wine list, guests can order anything from a $10 to $30 glass of red, white or sparkling to suit their palates. (Or by the bottle, of course.) Local beer is also available on tap, and the food menu offers perfect complements, from small plates to a steak salad, a charcuterie board or a dessert of the day.
Though Jacques can often be found catching up with her staff, perched behind the taps, she does have her sights set on an eventual retirement. “My friends and family ask if this will be my legacy, and I say, ‘Nope, this is April’s legacy. I did this for April.’ And I tell her this will be hers someday,” Jacques says. For now, she’s consumed with pairing food offerings to create the spring wine menu.
Pairings for Cozy Neighborhood Nights
Warm up with a big, intense cabernet sauvignon. A food pairing demands a complex flavor profile that can handle its beautiful red finish. Pair it with the Blanche Cheese Board, which combines a trio of meat and three cheeses with an olive tapenade, ground mustard, relishes and an inviting warm bread for the perfect Thursday night in a cozy little spot.
After a show at the iconic Edina Theatre, opt for a pint of local beer. Pair it with the Classic Steak Salad, which combines mixed greens tossed in a citrus vinaigrette with fresh vegetables, rosemary potatoes and mushrooms.
For a surprising after-dinner delight, give lambrusco another shot. This is not your ’80s, overly sweet bubble. With its red dash of tannins and fresh red fruit, it’s a perfect note that plays so well with a Flourless Chocolate Cake.
Bojae’s Wine Bar and Bistro
4950 France Ave. S.; 612.719.4068
Facebook: Bojae’s Wine Bar