Debra Arp looked outside the car window as she and her husband drove down Knox Circle, a long, narrow gravel road northeast of Huntsville off TX 19. With nothing but trees as far as she could see, Arp noticed a small sign for a local business called Froggy Wines.
Arp and her husband, with no plans for the day, stopped in for a wine tasting.
When the couple arrived at the small, two-room shed, they were happily greeted by the owners and were offered five different wines to try.
Six years later, Arp recalled that it was the hospitality of the owners and the flavorful wines that have kept her coming back.
“When we walked in, we were greeted by two of the friendliest people we’ve ever met,” Arp said. “They offered us a free wine tasting and after the first glass, we were sold.”
Those friendly people were Richard and Deborah Henriksen, the co-owners of Froggy Wines, located at 104 Knox Circle, just off TX 19 toward Riverside and roughly nine miles from Sam Houston State University’s campus as the crow flies.
Richard Henriksen, 67, is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling at Sam Houston State University, and Deborah Henriksen, 62, serves as the assistant to the chair in the Department of Engineering Technology.
The Henriksens have busy schedules at the university, so time management is key. There are no off days when it comes to running a business, but family plays a key role in supporting the winery and its success.
“The business really is a family affair,” Richard Henriksen said. “My daughters help out when they can, and me and my wife both own the business equally.”
Deborah Henriksen coined the name for the winery jointly based on her frog collection she assembled over 40 years and her unwavering Catholic faith.
“We wanted to share God’s love with people when they ask about our business name and creating an acronym gave us a perfect way to do so. Froggy stands for ‘forever rely on God’s gifts to you,’” Deborah Henriksen said.
The couple started their winery 10 years ago by toying around with wine kits.
“When we first found out the wine kits were being sold, we went and bought one to make our first batch of wine,” Richard Henriksen said. “We shared it with our friends and they loved it.”
They gave away free bottles of wine every time they made a batch and eventually calculated how profitable the hobby would be if they were selling their product instead of giving it away.
“After realizing how successful our wine was among our friends, we decided we needed to turn our hobby into a business and start making some money,” Richard Henriksen said. “Although I graduated from Sam Houston and had lived here previously, we moved away because I couldn’t find a teaching position after I graduated.
“But my wife and I eventually came back when [a teaching position] opened up here and that’s when we decided we were going to open a winery,” he continued. “However, it was tough at the beginning because we only knew the arts side of making wine, not the science or the business side.”
To learn the science and business sides, the couple enrolled in classes in oenology, the study of wine and winemaking, at Grayson College in Denison.
For two years, they studied how to open a business, learned about the scientific process of making wine and continued their plan to establish a winery.
The couple also hired students from the College of Science and Engineering Technology to help construct the primary building of the winery itself. Students have also provided input on the winery’s landscape design, which was incorporated in the final production of the building.
Richard and Deborah Henriksen said they plan to erect a new building on their property solely for manufacturing, while continuing to submit their wines to wine competitions and creating a bigger footprint in Huntsville.
“We would like to expand our business by selling our wines at local restaurants and stores, but we don’t plan to go further than Trinity County,” Richard Henriksen said.