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Urban Grape launches wine education award for students of color

The award that will provide education, work, and mentorship opportunities for students of color interested in pursuing careers in the wine industry

Hadley (left) and TJ Douglas, the owners of the Urban Grape wine store on Columbus Avenue in the South End.
Hadley (left) and TJ Douglas, the owners of the Urban Grape wine store on Columbus Avenue in the South End.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Last week, TJ and Hadley Douglas, owners of South End wine shop Urban Grape, announced the launch of a groundbreaking award that will provide education, work, and mentorship opportunities for students of color interested in pursuing careers in the wine industry.

The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color, commemorating the 10th anniversary of their business, establishes an endowment fund at Boston University’s Metropolitan College. That fund will enable selected recipients — at least one every year — to pursue all four levels of BU’s Certificate Program in Wine Studies, housed in the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center, taught by two masters of wine. Concurrent with coursework, awardees will undertake three paid internships: one in retail at the Urban Grape; another in the wholesale sector with MS Walker, a major wine and spirits distributor in Norwood; and a third at Big Heart Hospitality, the Boston restaurant group of Tiffani Faison. The deadline to apply for the award is Aug. 15, 2020. The first award recipient will begin coursework and internships beginning in September 2020.

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TJ Douglas, a 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry, knows firsthand how BU’s wine curriculum, combined with experience in retail, distribution, and restaurant sectors, can provide a springboard to success. “The idea is to have someone go through all four levels of coursework, plus all three internships, and come out with a great network,” he says. “That person will be a rock star in wine and hospitality who can choose where they want to go.”

For years, the Douglases talked about launching such an initiative, seeking to address the fact that people of color are underrepresented across the wine industry. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, plans had to be put on hold. Then, in the early morning hours of June 1, the shop was vandalized in the chaos that followed peaceful protests decrying the death of George Floyd. Customers and industry professionals rallied to their side, asking how they could help, and ultimately driving up sales. Soon after, the couple started an endowed fund with a $10,000 contribution. “It has been our customers’ support for us as a Black-owned business and for Black-owned brands that allowed us to fund this ourselves,” says Hadley Douglas.

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Tax-deductible donations can be made to expand the program’s reach, first in Boston, then nationwide. Details are at theurbangrape.com/wine-studies-award.

Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com


Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com