Ken Baker, a project manager for an environmental company, was a customer at My Wine Cellar years ago when the owners, Tom and Kathleen Fordyce, asked if he would watch the store one weekend while they went out of town.
"And there it began," said Baker, who moved to Arizona 13 years ago from New Jersey.
He said working at the popular wine shop as a diversion. Now, eight years later, he calls his day-time management position his "real job" and bartending at My Wine Cellar his "fun job," which he does on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and whenever else he is needed to lend a hand.
So what is his secret to being voted "Best Bartender" by readers of the Ahwatukee Foothills News?
"My Wine Cellar is the type of place that has a lot of regular clientele, almost like a Cheers type of atmosphere. People are made to feel welcomed and I know what people drink when they walk in. I know their names and you develop that type of close relationship," Baker said.
My Wine Cellar has been a perennial powerhouse in the AFN Best Of competition since opening in 1999.
Since then, Ahwatukee Foothills residents have consistently voted them the No. 1 wine shop, place to take a date and best place where singles mingle.
Part of the family-owned business's success is due to staff like Baker, who enjoy their job and treat customers like family. The other part is that My Wine Cellar provides more than just a place to buy a bottle of wine. The establishment also offers wine education classes, tastings, music and a light dinner menu.
2nd place: Erin Zimmerman (CK'S Grill and Tavern)
3rd place: Christine Murray (That Italian Place)