By Gigi Egge
Laura Maniec is co-founder of Corkbuzz restaurant and wine bar, a Master Sommelier and a WIF Member since 2015. Gigi Egge caught up with Laura in advance of WIF’s October 24 member recruitment event at Corkbuzz.
Q: Why did you decide to join the Women’s Impact Fund? I learned about the Women’s Impact Fund through Deborah Majewski who is the incoming board chair and a mentor to me. I was looking for a way to become more involved in the Charlotte community, and also looking for ways to get to know great women in the area. I joined in the fall of 2015, and am currently on the Member Engagement Committee.
I love that WIF provides unique opportunities to give back to the community, and also to learn from others. I like to surround myself with entrepreneurial people who are successful, and at the top of their industries. I appreciate opportunities to learn from successful people whose skillsets differ from mine, and I like to pass along my own knowledge and skills to others in turn, whether that’s through events, wine, or entertaining.
Q: Where did you grow up and how did it shape you? I grew up in Bayside, Queens, one of the boroughs of New York. I have two sisters and a brother, and my dad took care of us, while working two jobs after my mom passed away. I had to grow up fast, and in many ways my siblings and I raised ourselves, with our grandmother’s influence, while our dad worked. I am very much an “old soul,” having been on my own since I was 17. We put ourselves through college, and nothing was handed to us. We all learned the value and importance of hard work, because that was our reality.
Q: What person had the biggest impact of your life? Definitely my grandmother Rose, who was my mom’s mom. She basically raised my siblings and me. We did not live with her, but she taught me so much about life, hospitality, kindness, and how to take care of people – how to make people feel very special! She didn’t own restaurants, but her home was like a restaurant in many ways, since she loved to entertain, and share her values and morals. Most importantly she taught us to be loving, and helped us understand unconditional love.
Q: What’s the best advice you ever received? Choose a great partner – and this is applicable professionally, personally, and socially. It’s much more difficult to succeed alone. Choose a partner who balances your skill set, whether you are serving on a committee, getting married, or working on a nonprofit. It’s so much nicer and easier to do anything with the RIGHT person by your side!
Q: If you could have one super power, what would it be and why? I would want my super power to be the ability to create happiness and joy, and to help ease people’s minds. The world today is so chaotic and anxiety ridden. I would love to have the ability to make people’s worries go away, and find happiness in the midst of it all.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would you choose and why? I am fascinated by entrepreneurial women, and enjoy learning about and meeting strong, creative business leaders. I would love to have lunch with Sheryl Sandberg, and talk to her about her career-driven balance, as well as her experiences with Facebook and other technology companies.
I am also a huge fan of the 13th century poet Rumi. His readings and poetry have greatly influenced the way I live my life. When my mom died, someone gave me a copy of his poem “Birdwings,” which is so beautiful. It’s all about how grief and joy coexist, and of course in life there is going to be pain, but feeling pain makes you recognize and appreciate joy. It’s incredibly powerful. I even named my dog Rumi because these writings have been so influential to me.
Q: What is your favorite kind of book? Of course I’m always reading books about wine, and I especially love to find books about history as it relates to wine. I’ve just come back from a trip to Italy, and am really enjoying a book about the day in the life of an ancient Roman. I’m also currently reading “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante, which I am dying to finish!
Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you? Although I am a wine connoisseur, I also like beer! I love a good craft beer, cocktails, or spirits. Also, I’m a pretty cheap date. ☺ I don’t drink only super expensive bottles of wine. I really love finding the best value, whatever the price point.
Q: What is your favorite place to take out of town guests? Corkbuzz! Although many people think of Corkbuzz as a wine bar, wine is only part of the story. We also have an unbelievable mixologist, who makes incredible drinks. He pays attention to every detail, down to the ice cubes that are used. He makes several drinks that include smoke-infused ice cubes, which impart that smoky flavor throughout the cocktail and are just delicious. Many people also don’t realize that our chef is amazing, and creates unbelievable meals. All of our food is locally sourced, our pastas are handmade, our cheeses are produced by artisans – it’s a fantastic dining destination! Our philosophy is that eating at a restaurant should feel like you are in someone’s home and being taken care of, so we really pay careful attention to the entire food and wine experience.
I love Dogwood as well, and am really proud to be part of the mini “restaurant row” at Sharon Square. We share our outside patio with Dogwood, and together are able to bring great live music to our guests and really elevate the dining options in the South Park area. I’m also a big fan of Del Frisco’s. I actually helped open a Del Frisco’s in New York when I was 19 and was responsible for the cigar lounge there. It was an amazing experience to have at a relatively young age, and I love how they are able to make it feel so personal and intimate, even though it’s a big steakhouse.
Q: What is the one guilty pleasure that you enjoy too much to give up? I do not eat any gluten or dairy, and I will go months without eating any bread, pasta, or cheese, but then I reach a point where I MUST have pizza! I love basically every kind of pizza, and love to try different styles. There is a place in Connecticut called Frank Pepe’s that has the most incredible clam pizza! It doesn’t matter how out of the way it is, or if there is a lot of traffic – when I am craving that pizza I will find a way to get there!
Q: What have you learned about Charlotte through your involvement with Women’s Impact Fund? I’ve learned that Charlotte is a close knit community of people that is really warm, and willing and able to help one another. It’s very inspiring and exciting to see the openness to creating, and giving back. As an outsider coming into a new city, it could easily be difficult to assimilate, and easy to feel out of place. But WIF has helped me to connect with such an amazing group of people. It’s great to be able to pick each other’s brains and learn from each other, and together make such a powerful impact.
Q: What would you tell a friend or colleague who was thinking about joining WIF? If you want to get involved and be a part of the best women’s philanthropy organization in Charlotte, then you should definitely consider joining! It’s so easy to get involved right away, and there are no barriers to being as engaged as you want to be.