By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 30, 2011 at 5:39 AM

Shawn Vollmer likes beer. And wine. And providing a place for people to relax and enjoy craft beer and wine by the glass in a comfortable, coffee shop-like atmosphere.

Vollmer is co-owner of Three Cellars Wine Beer Lounge in Franklin. With 500 craft beers, it’s one of the largest mix-and-match stores in all of Wisconsin. Plus, with the massive beer selection, more than 300 wines and a comfortable sampling room, Three Cellars offers a unique experience for everyone from the casual beer drinker to the wine connoisseur.

Vollmer says people use Three Cellars like a coffee shop that serves wine and beer instead of coffee. Three Cellars plays jazz, has a fireplace, board games and Internet service.

"Some people might say, ‘Oh, you’re just a bar.’ No, I’m not," says Vollmer. "The whole idea is about relaxing."

Every week, four different wines are served by the glass. Or, customers can pull any wine off the shelf to drink, cork and take home.

All of the wines are from smaller, family-owned wineries and are organized by taste, from bold, dry reds near the counter going clockwise around the store to sweet whites and reds.

Also, there is a rotating selection of four tap beers. The beers, like the wines, can be pulled off the shelf and enjoyed in the shop. Three Cellars has instant chiller machines that cool a beer in three minutes.

The wine selection switches every Friday and the beers switch about every two weeks.

The day we were there, Vollmer was offering a beer cocktail: the Smooth Criminal, made from imperial stout, port wine and a splash of chocolate.

"People who have one, get an instant smile," Vollmer says. "People who have two, never have one again. It’s 15 percent alcohol."

Instead, we opted for two of the tap beers, a Sprecher Amber and a Sierra Nevada Grand Cru.

Vollmer, who is originally from Stoughton, lives in Oak Creek with two kids, ages 6 and 8. Vollmer, who also likes to brew beer but since opening Three Cellars doesn't have the time, says he is going to make time to take the kids to Disney World later this month.

Before Three Cellars, Vollmer was a radio personality in Kenosha and a store manager for Target Corp.

Vollmer, who has always been a craft beer enthusiast, says he got the idea to open the shop after reading an article about a store in San Francisco. He started Three Cellars with co-owner James Nelson on 27th and Rawson in 2006, and they moved to the current location in January 2009.

At the current location, they have 2,000 square feet and can accommodate 40 people. Plans for a beer garden patio later this season will double that capacity.

Vollmer says customers often suggest that he open a second location on the East Side or Downtown, and eventually, he says, they might do it. But first, he wants to make sure his current business is, he says, "exactly the way I want it."In addition to the patio, Vollmer says they want to expand the four taps to eight, and offer wine flights. But for now, Three Cellars does just fine, drawing over 100 people at a time to free beer and wine tastings which take place on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

"We were one of the first places to do a free tasting," says Vollmer.

Vollmer says they were also the first to bring in Oso, Central Waters and Furthermore, and are currently the only ones to have Lake Louie beers from Arena, Wis.

Three Cellars specializes in Wisconsin craft beers and also carries imports, mostly Belgian and German. But you won’t find any macro brews.

"Every supplier told me I was going to fail without Miller and Bud. It has been three years since we stopped carrying the macros, and I’m still paying the electric bill," says Vollmer.

"If I’m going to call myself a craft beer store, then I’m going to be one."

Three Cellars’ sales are 50 / 50 wine and beer, with prices ranging from a beer that’s $1.09 to wine going for $199 a bottle.

Vollmer doesn’t have a favorite wine or beer. "That’s a trick question," he says. "My palate rotates with the seasons, my mood, with what I’m eating."

Three Cellars will do special orders and offers many interesting discounts and promotions, like the 6-6-1 Program that basically offers a bottle of house wine for a penny with the purchase of six bottles.

Vollmer wants to make the atmosphere as comfortable and fun as possible. He is collecting older board games and currently has a stack including Monopoly and cribbage. Customers can bring in food or can order menu items from Moondance Cafe at 27th and Rawson and Toppers will deliver anything at half price.

"It beats me building a kitchen," Vollmer says.

Three Cellars has special events and a "school," where customers learn more about beer and wine. "It’s not a lecture, more of a discussion and a tasting," says Vollmer.

Recently, Vollmer hosted a class about pairing beer and chocolate. Customers sampled different beers, ate chocolates and discussed which ones were good complements.

"Every day I learn more and more," says Vollmer.

Three Cellars has a diverse crowd, with many people coming from out of state to shop.

"We get visitors from all over the country," Vollmer says. Three Cellars' A+ rating on Beeradvocate.com might contribute to this.

"It sounds cliché, but it’s the people. It’s exciting to see customers helping other customers."

Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.

As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.

She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that. 

Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.

Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.

In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!

When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.