Behind the Build: Oak Barrel & Vine | All-female team assembled for Maryland ABC store

Maryland ABS has been transforming its stores into Oak Barrel & Vine shops with the help of HBW Construction. The most recent build is extra special because it’s the first all-women-led commercial construction project for the firm.

Photo of HBW Construction's commercial construction work at Oak Barrel & Vine in Maryland. Learn about this women-led construction project.

When it opens this fall, the new experience-focused Oak Barrel & Vine retail store will feature a tasting room and special displays for selling spirits and locally made products. The 5390 Westbard Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland is HBW’s second retail build-out for Maryland ABS but the firm’s first run entirely by women.

HBW often talks about the value of having a diverse workforce, yet the Oak Barrel & Vine retail construction services offer visible proof that the firm walks the walk, too. The client, architect, project manager, project coordinator, superintendent, and back-office staff are all women. Go behind the build to see how these women are making an impact on the job.

A Day on the Job

The Oak Barrel & Vine project has shifted into high gear. With just a few weeks left before the September delivery, the interior walls and utilities are in, and the focus is on the defining details, with more than 27 unique finishes. The coordination requires close alignment and communication to track all the moving parts.

Photo collage illustrating HBW Construction's commercial construction processes underway at Oak Barrel & Vine in Maryland.

First thing in the morning, Senior Project Manager Alexandra Dramby visits the job site, meeting with Superintendent Jess Hipp to discuss the day’s work, while Cynthia Aparicio, the Project Coordinator, is in the office filtering through dozens of emails about the job.

Cynthia notes any action items for Alexandra and forwards emails to Jess, helping simplify and streamline the many questions and updates HBW receives daily from the architect, the client, subcontractors, and other vendors.

“Cynthia’s our major line of support. If she sees an email come through or a response to an RFI, she is funneling it through to the appropriate people and getting the information needed as fast as she can. She helps us recognize and prioritize the most important things so they can be seen and handled first,” explains Alexandra.

Cynthia adds, “I know if Jess calls the office, that means she needs help right now. Our communication flow really helps us sync as a team and look ahead, which helps avoid delays or problems. It takes all of us working together to coordinate the materials and the labor to complete the project on time.”

About the Build

Each Oak Barrel & Vine store is unique, adding a twist to the build-out for HBW. This location features a tasting area with barn doors, brick finishes, lighting that make it feel like an outdoor space, a welcome wall with custom millwork pieces, and wayfinding design elements that help guide customers through the store and to the products they are looking for.

“You don’t often see this many finishes in a 5,000 square foot retail space. The wood paneling and custom-made cabinetry, the fabric on the walls, the wall sconces all will give this project an atmosphere that welcomes buyers in,” says Jess.

The finishes aren’t just decoration. Each part of the design connects to the Maryland community, like the barrel rounds used for one of the walls. They were sourced from local distillers.

“It’s incredibly unique that a liquor store is building retail space so local brands can come in to do tastings of their products. It really gives the community a way to get to know local companies and appreciate what Maryland has to offer,” she adds.

Working Through Challenges

The Oak Barrel & Vine job is the fourth retail location for Maryland ABS, with more store transformations planned for the future. Like other commercial and franchise builds, the work involves third-party vendors selected by the client.

Picture showing HBW Construction's design & build work at the first Oak Barrel & Vine store that our commercial construction team worked on.First HBW Construction project with Oak Barrel & Vine

Working with others who might not understand or share HBW’s standards for quality, safety, and communication can pose a challenge.

“Often, it’s up to Jess to communicate and enforce our policies on the job site,” explains Alexandra. “The signage or fixture vendors might need to adjust to our hours and our safety protocols. She has the support of our entire team, helping to make calls and send emails to the companies so they are ready to jump in and do their part.”

“It helps to have the same subs or vendors on repeat builds. We already know they will do great work, and they are connected to our ways of communicating on and off the job site,” says Jess.

Women at Work

Does having an all-female team make a difference? HBW staff agree that every team delivers quality and attention to detail, but the women on the Oak Barrel & Vine project recognize that their team communicates a little differently and operates a little smoother.

“We are being super-efficient and answering back quicker,” observes Cynthia. “We are all pushing for this one a little more than usual because we want to show that it’s not only men working in construction. Women at HBW get the job done too.”

Women make up (26%) of the HBW workforce, more than double the national average of 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The firm had its first female manager in 2005, first female superintendent in 2019, and first female vice president in 2023.

With lots of ground left to cover, the commercial construction team points to shared company-wide values as the key to continued success on the job. The client already knows that HBW will deliver an incredible product – the first Oak Barrel & Vine was delivered without a punch list – and the team believes they are on track to do the same for this location.

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