“Before that—you know how you’re caught up in your own bubble? You do your normal routine of things,” she said. “But going through that process I started to think bigger and really ask, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ and ‘What can I do to help others?’”
With a new outlook, she went into consulting and became a fundraiser for nonprofits and causes, a path that led her to meet James Davis, a local business leader who later purchased the Ogun Wine Bar at 920 Studemont St., from a friend of his.
“He called me and said, ‘How would you like to help run this for me? You have enough degrees; you could figure it out,’” she said. “And I did.”
Trez Art and Wine Bar opened in spring 2019 with McWilliams as a consultant. By January 2020, she had the reins as general manager—but only after learning every aspect of the business, she said.
McWilliams, who might be the only Black woman running a wine bar in Houston, also played to her strengths and contacts as a fundraiser, surrounding herself with key people to help bring the vision to life, such as Carla Bisong, who curates the bistro’s art by local Black artists. Last summer, McWilliams brought on a chef to enhance the menu with scratch-made items and build its brunch program. In-house mixologists also craft exclusive, colorful cocktails.
Meanwhile, a portion of every sale goes to charitable causes such as the American Cancer Society or Perfect Connections, a group focused on autism. The giving mission has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic despite a dip in business.
“We merge art. We merge philanthropy. We have a great environment, and we offer something different,” McWilliams said. “It’s the perfect formula.”
There is also, of course, wine.
“We have only selections from boutique wineries, and we do have options from female winemakers and African American winemakers. We make sure we support other minority businesses as a minority,” she said.
Trez Art and Wine Bar
920 Studemont St., Ste. 150, Houston
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 4-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4-11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Mon. except for private events