The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Russ Johnson and his wife, Heather Brown, to launch a business venture they’d been mulling for a while.

They became the first people in Missouri last year to open a self-serve wine bar with 72 wines on tap at 309 Armour Road. Since then, North Kansas City’s Sail Away Wine has organically built brand evangelists and regulars.

“One of the biggest questions we get is, ‘Can you open in my neighborhood?’” said Johnson, a former Kansas City councilman and software developer.

The husband-and-wife duo want to open at least one more location by 2023.

“Our No. 1 goal is how can we make wine as easy to try as flipping through videos on Netflix?” he said.

The couple initially drew inspiration from a self-serve wine bar in New Orleans and started researching similar concepts. With the pandemic’s uncertainty, Johnson’s employer decided not to renew his contract, which further emboldened the couple to sail into their business idea.