Krista Slater, co-owner and operator of Athens’ local restaurant, The Expat, pauses for a moment to enjoy a glass of wine inside the eatery on Aug. 29, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. A certified sommelier, Slater plans to open up a new wine shop on Prince Avenue called The Lark, offering retail and a tasting bar. (Photo/ Caroline Head, chead@randb.com)

Krista Lark Slater wanted to be a museum curator. At least, that’s what she thought when she was in college. Instead, she took her artistic background in a different, more refreshing direction — into the world of wine.

Lark Slater is a certified sommelier, or wine professional, and has worked for years in the restaurant industry, but she has only recently begun to pursue one of her passion projects. She opened The Lark Winespace on Prince Avenue last fall, and while it’s her newest venture, it’s far from her first. The Lark is one entry in a long list of her work at different establishments and her second business in Athens.

Lark Slater’s love for wine was born while she studied art history and visual art. When she was studying for a career in museum work, she spent time in the vineyards of Europe and learned about wine “as an educational and creative outlet, not just as a drink.”

It was then Lark Slater encountered a crossroads: She could stay on her current career path or make a life-changing decision. She decided to attend a culinary school in northern California and earned a degree in wine studies. From that moment on, she was a certified sommelier with expertise in wine pairings and buyings.

From Atlanta to Five Points

Lark Slater’s first jobs were typical of the title — wine bars, retail buying, restaurants and wholesale purchases. It wasn’t until she began to work at Atlanta restaurant H. Harper Station that Lark Slater began to encounter the ownership side of the industry. It’s also where she met her husband, owner of H. Harper Station, Jerry Slater.

Slater brought Lark Slater onto the staff for help and said she didn’t disappoint.

“She was just such a great asset,” Slater said. “She just had such a great palette that we meshed really well together.”

Their partnership expanded beyond Atlanta when the duo moved to Athens to open The Expat in an old house in Five Points. Athens was a natural progression for the couple, as Slater had grown up visiting Athens, and the two of them fell in love with the Classic City.

“It has everything ­— a lot of the things we love about big cities, you know: cultural elements, music scene, art scene, the food scene,” Lark Slater said.

For Slater and Lark Slater, the mission of The Expat was all about creating a space where people were friendly and customers felt at home, Lark Slater said.

Fermenting a good time

It was that community focus that brought Lark Slater to an unexpected place. In December 2019, Avid Bookshop on Prince Avenue was closing, and the space became available. Instead of letting a chain occupy the space, Lark Slater took the opportunity to open The Lark Winespace.

Avid Bookshop owner and founder Janet Geddis is in full support of the business. After Avid closed, she said she hoped a local business would take its place.

“When I learned that our friend Krista was moving in, I felt such joy,” Geddis said. “She understands the importance of connecting with the community, and she loves Athens.”

The partnership has continued as Lark Slater works with Avid and Geddis to include a variety of books in The Lark’s retail space. Between the book selection and other details, Lark Slater has tried to create an establishment that’s both a shop and an experience.

A frequent customer and friend of the couple, Kirsten Hindes, said The Lark is one of the only “grown-up” spaces in Athens. She sees it as a place where you can meet a friend after work or go on a date. Hindes comes back for that community and for Lark Slater’s expertise.

“Krista’s passion and knowledge run so deep, but she’s also great about relationships with customers,” Hindes said.

Customers can choose to shop a selection of wines, from full-bodied reds to summery Spanish whites, or they can participate in wine tastings and a casual wine education. Lark Slater said she wants to use this space to make wine fun.

While Lark Slater acknowledges many sommeliers will talk about their own knowledge and rare wines when tasting, she said what she likes most is seeing people excited to try new things. It’s why she tries to make wine tasting accessible, using descriptors like “pineapple lifesaver” instead of “notes of gooseberry.”

“This is, at the end of the day, about making people happy,” Lark Slater said.