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The Local Cheers

Water Into Wine Owner Prioritizes Safety Over Sales

In 2011, Candace Viox was having a hard time. On top of grappling with health issues and an impending divorce, her mother passed away unexpectedly. It was a perfect storm of events that left her wondering what in the world she was supposed to do next.

“I’d drop my kids off at school and then sit in bars and drink. Even though I wasn’t making good decisions to cope, I realized all these places were filled with men and I got sick of it. I didn’t want to watch ESPN on big TVs or be talked to,” she says. “I was sick of it. There was no girl bar or ladies’ lounge.”

So, the following year, she packed up her four kids and went back to California, where Candace was born and raised, having moved to Tennessee during her senior year of high school. It was July 2012. She was at the beach with friends, exhausted and angry at God.

“Everywhere reminded me of my mom. My kids were excited to move back, but I still wasn’t at peace. Her death was sudden, and I had no time to process. I just couldn’t cry anymore. It was such a bad time,” she says.

Standing on the pier in despair, Candace fell to her knees and cried out, which is when she felt a nudge from above, asking, “Are you done yet?”

“I stood up, brushed the sand off my knees, went back to the firepit where my kids were and said, ‘We’re going back to Tennessee.’ It was in that moment that I realized God wasn’t done with me yet,” she says. “I was sitting on the couch early one morning when I looked up and said, ‘Fine. I’m back.’ In that moment, I was alone, and God said, ‘Go back to school.’ I was like, really? I got on the computer and typed ‘old person going back to school’ and Pellissippi shows up.”

She laughs at this now, but at the time it was an act of blind faith. She had a growing interest in hospitality, and she never forgot how obnoxious it was to want to sit down in a bar and have a glass of wine without being hassled. Pellissippi State Community College had a program that suited her interests, so she enrolled, dressed up for the first day of class, and sat in the front row. Through her classes and connections with other business leaders in the community, a concept started to develop.

“I wrote it all on a napkin in Bonefish Grill: This is what I picture – a U-shaped bar so people can connect. No TVs. All the tables can link up so a group of girlfriends can easily grab another table. Never serving Bud Light or Jägermeister,” she says, laughing. “I got my business plan going and got an internship at Seasons. I showed up and Deron Little let me do everything – I was a hostess, server, worked on the line, and did everything for about 14 months.”

Water Into Wine opened in 2016, and it was exactly the vision Candace had from the beginning. Yes, it’s a bistro that serves cocktails and wine, and there’s a full kitchen where everything is made from scratch, including vegetarian and vegan options. The decor is welcoming, and the space is rentable for private parties and special events. But Candance insists Water Into Wine isn’t a bar. Instead, she calls it “a relational lounge.” There are extra touches that make the place stand out from the rest, like scripture verses posted on the bathroom walls, reminders that no one is ever alone, or Angel Shots, which is a special drink a woman can order to alert the staff that she needs help getting out of a bad situation.

“We’ve used it once,” says Candace. “Couples can meet up and if it ends up being not what you though, we have their back.”

More than anything, Candace wants Water Into Wine to be a safe place to enjoy good company.

When she needed it, there was no neighborhood Cheersin Farragut, a safe place for a woman who just lost her mom to go have a drink without being hit on.

"We don't need to be saved," says Candace. "Sometimes we want to go to a place to meet our girlfriends and be loved on."

"We don't need to be saved," says Candace. "Sometimes we want to go to a place to meet our girlfriends and be loved on."