Dayton native to open new wine spot in downtown Dayton

Credit: The Idea Collective

Credit: The Idea Collective

Dayton native Lauren Gay is opening a new wine business this summer in downtown Dayton’s Fire Blocks District.

“It has been a long time coming,” Gay said. “I’ve been looking for a location for about four years.”

She told the original concept was to simply open a wine retail shop downtown, something that has been missing since The Wine Gallery closed in 2018. Gay said she was looking for a spot about 900 to 1,000 square feet but ended up falling in love with a space double that size. Due to the extra room she decided to add a bar and small bites to her plans.

The wine shop and bar will be called Joui (pronounced Joy). Gay said the name “comes from the French word jouissance meaning a feeling of physical and intellectual delight.” She went on to say it “perfectly encompasses why I like wine so much.”

She hopes the public will not be deterred by the name. Creating a casual, fun vibe is paramount.

“I know it’s a French name and I know it’s kind of intimidating but everything about the space is going to be super fun and approachable,” Gay acknowledged.

She explained the space, located at 117 E. Third St. next to Salt Block Biscuit Company, will be bright, fun, playful and laid-back. She said she wants people to feel like they can come in and ask questions.

Credit: The Idea Collective

Credit: The Idea Collective

The retail sector is expected to feature bottles that are $25 and under in addition to more expensive wines. She said there will be a variety of styles including environmentally friendly and organic wines.

Joui is expected to host wine tastings with different lineups on Saturday afternoons and a rotating list of specials and features. Gay said the small bites will start off very simple with items like pickles, cheese, olives and almonds.

“It’s exciting there is more happening in the wine world and more people becoming interested in it,” Gay said.

She also explained wine is a full sensory experience in which you take a first sip to notice different nodes and a second sip to notice more complexities.

Gay is a 2005 graduate of Northmont High School. After graduating from Ohio State University, she served in the Peace Corps in Kenya working on economic development for youth.

With intentions to pursue a career in music management, a move to Los Angeles would instead lead to a fruitful and adventurous career in wine. Gay honed her skills in the L.A. wine industry while working under the prestigious Nancy Silverton, co-owner of Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles and Newport Beach as well as Osteria Mozza, Mozza2Go and chi SPACCA in Los Angeles.

Since her start in L.A., Gay has worked with and managed award-winning wine programs in Las Vegas, San Francisco and several cities in Ohio.

She currently directs the wine program at Sueño and Tender Mercy in the Avant-Garde building at 607 E. 3rd St. in downtown Dayton. She is also the general manager at Sueño but is phasing out of that position.

Gay said the owners of Sueño and Tender Mercy focus on professional development and encourages employees to use their restaurant as a foundation towards their dreams.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I didn’t have the opportunity with Sueño and Tender Mercy to learn as much as I did,” Gay said.

She is also excited to focus solely on wine in this next adventure.

“Being a native Daytonian I understand the market,” she said. “I understand the people. I have a lot of friends and connections here. This has been an incredibly intimidating process but doing it in Dayton, where I feel very supported, has made the process so much easier. That’s why I love Dayton so much. I feel like it is a community that lifts each other up.”

Construction on Joui is expected to begin in March.

For more information and updates, visit the establishment’s Instagram page. To contact Gay directly, email

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