LEWISTON — Susan Hall is a kind of wine counselor.
After spending years touring vineyards and working at seemingly every aspect of wine sales — importing, distribution and marketing — she wants to help people find the right wine for their table.
"That's what I love," Hall said Thursday as she tinkered around her shop, The Vault. With hours remaining before her Friday opening, she unpacked boxes and placed the last bottles on shelves in the store's namesake.
A back wall is dominated by the door of a floor-to-ceiling vault, a remnant of 84 Lisbon St.'s one-time occupant, Casco Bank. This vault is where Hall plans to showcase some of her best deals as wines of the month.
But there are deals everywhere, she said. And none seem the same as the wine featured in a large supermarket.
"One benefit from the travel I've done is that I am able to bring back all of the things that I love about wine and travel and food and share them with my customers," she said.
Hall grew up in Westbrook. After moving to the Boston area, she began a first career in the medical field. She was a malpractice underwriter and worked for a software company that looked at health care claims.
Then, she changed careers, led by her love of food and wine.
"My company was being sold to a Swiss outfit," she said. "I had a chance to change careers into something I really loved."
She followed wine around the world. Then, her husband took a job in Auburn and they moved.
It was the final step Hall needed to share her love of wine.
"Everything in the store is something that I've tried and I know and think offers the quality-to-value ratio that I am looking for," she said.
She welcomes someone coming in looking for a wine for a specific occasion.
Her questions are ready.
"I'm going to ask you, 'What do you typically drink and what do you like? And what about the people you'll be serving this with?" she said. "What type of event is it? It is celebratory? Do we want to have something to bring to a picnic? Do we want a casual? Are we going to a cookout? What kinds of things will be served?"
Her store is divided by region, with racks of wines from California and the Northwest, Italy, France, other European countries and the Southern Hemisphere.
"We've got the Aussie stuff," she said. "We've got the Argentinian Melbecs. We've got Chilean Cabernets."
Prices begin at 6.99 on her value rack, she said. Many other wines cost under $10. She plans to sell a selection of beers, mostly from the local area, as well as a few wines from Maine.
"I enjoy a lot of different wines," she said. "I look at how a wine is made, how it comes across. There has definitely been a movement away from the alcohol-forward wines. They tend not to be food friendly. They tend to be a little hot. And they really don't give you everything, all the nuances that you're looking for and a great taste."
Eventually, Hall plans to hold wine tastings. She also hopes to join the downtown's growing number of businesses featuring local art.
Her shop is located across the street from Lewiston District Court, not far from restaurants Fuel, Marche and Mother India.
The store also creates one less empty storefront along the busy street.
Her building has undergone 18-month-long remodeling. The second and third floors are rental apartments.
Building owner Jules Patry, who also owns DaVinci's Eatery, lives on the fourth floor.