Meet Haley Fortier
Founder and owner of haley.henry wine bar and nathálie wine bar
Named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2019 “Sommeliers of the Year,” Haley brings over 15+ years of industry experience to the business. Her passion for small production wines and tinned seafood, paired with a very scarce Boston wine bar scene, gave her the motivation to bring something truly unique to the heart of Downtown Crossing. Haley.henry wine bar has gained national press, most recently being named a semifinalist for the second year in a row, to the 2020 James Beard Awards. Nathálie wine bar, Haley’s second endeavor, opened in Fenway in 2018.
Q: What was your first job in the restaurant industry?
A: My first job in the industry was when I was in high school back in the nineties. I worked at a resort called “The Beacon” as a server. It was known for hosting lots of bus tours filled with old people and the highlight of the day was a Champagne breakfast that we served poolside in the morning. We’d pop the corks from the wine into the pool, the people would clap and then everyone would eat and drink. It was a real wild ride, that job.
Q: What made you want to open your own restaurant? Does that still drive you?
A: I wanted to bring to the city something that at the time was really lacking; a real wine bar. We’ve come a long way in the five years we’ve been open, but I’m still driven today to be the best we can be, both professionally and socially. We all have a responsibility to pull teams together that are going to move the needle in terms of social change and I am very lucky to have incredible individuals at both bars that really understand this in every direction.
Q: How have you been keeping your team motivated through this difficult, unprecedented time?
A: It’s a lot of funny texts back and forth; the meme game is strong these days. Although we’ve kept in touch, its also been a good time to let them be alone with the special people in their lives. One of my servers just had his first baby so he was able to have this time to really spend with his family.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a woman in this industry?
A: To be honest, just that. I am a woman in this industry. I am strong and determined to do exactly what my intentions are. This question has always been very difficult for me to answer because, on one hand, I truly understand the inequality and discrimination towards women that has been so disgustingly present throughout history. On the other hand, if we just keep inching forward we won’t have this question to answer anymore. It will just be the “norm” that females are everywhere, in every industry across this nation, kicking a** and taking names. That is what the focus is for me and I know that we will get there.
Q: In terms of female representation, what changes, if any, would you like to see in the industry in the next ten years?
A: It’s happening already. Female chefs, bartenders, entrepreneurs, owners, wine sommeliers … They are all around us. We are finally starting to get noticed because we are unwilling to be left in the shadows any longer. We’re making noise. This is what we need to do to keep this train moving; it’s one foot in front of the other every day, no excuses, no exceptions. We have to be our own cheerleaders for things to get done.
Q: Do you cook at home often? If so, what’s been your favorite meal to cook during quarantine?
A: I cook at home all the time. I love cooking. It’s somewhat of a therapy for me. I don’t have one particular thing that I cook because I like to flip through cookbooks and find new recipes to experiment with. Now baking on the other hand; I hate it. I didn’t jump on that “sourdough train” like everyone else. The thing that really irks me about baking is that it’s so scientific. I don’t want to mix things together, pop it in the oven and then wait 45 minutes to find out that it’s terrible. I like to adjust as I go, so baking for me is OUT! I will say this though; I make some mean pickles. I’ve definitely perfected those over quarantine.
Q: How do you envision the last year might shift how restaurants are operated, or the industry as a whole, going forward?
A: I think every business is different. The way you ebb and flow has to be determined by what’s in front of you at the moment, what resources you have to pull everything together and how your consumer base is going to react to those changes. I know personally, I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things; having the bar packed full, the incredible energy radiating off of people, the music, the camaraderie … I know it’s probably the LAST thing on everyone else mind, but for me, its the FIRST. Wine bars are supposed to be busy, shoulder to shoulder full of people. It’s what makes them feel intimate; makes you feel alive. I’m so ready for it.
Q: What does your restaurant model look like these days in terms of what you’re offering, how you’ve shifted, and how patrons can support you?
A: Well, right now we are not open to the public for indoor dining. That will soon change, but for now we’ve been hosting private parties, doing virtual wine tastings and selling a lot of products online – People have been so supportive, It’s just been incredible to see. Our hope is to be open at the end of this month/first week of April so we’ll see you soon either way. I mean, aren’t you all thirsty as hell???