Published: March 31, 2020

The Dinner Party sets a table for success

Mary Lancaster and George Balling, owners of The Dinner Party.

Mary Lancaster and George Balling, owners of The Dinner Party. Courtesy photo

After careers in the financial services sector, George Balling and Mary Lancaster wanted to share their lifelong passion for wine and entertaining with customers in the Inland Northwest.

The dinner table is more than a place to eat, they said. It’s a destination.

“We value the tradition of a meal with family and friends enjoyed at a thoughtfully decorated table. We believe there is more to the meal than just eating, it’s the time spent with your guests.”

George and Mary bring their expertise and passion to every customer they are privileged to serve at The Dinner Party. The Dinner Party helps customers find the perfect wine to go with each special meal. Well thought-out wrapped gifts and decor complement each place setting. Customers can choose stemware, linens, dinnerware, flatware, candles for each special occasion.

But George and Mary bring so much more to the customer’s table than that. Creating lasting memories and building community is what The Dinner Party does.

“We make it easy for customers to solve the puzzle of what wine to pair with their meal and encourage them to explore different wines and wine regions. With all of these we help folks develop, cement and enhance relationships.”

Wines from around the world are expertly matched to each occasion and meal. In addition, George and Mary build their customers’ own knowledge about entertaining with regular wine tastings, a beer club, and two different wine clubs.

The duo are always adding to their own knowledge by tasting 50-60 wines per week.

“We have always felt that if we are just picking the predictable for our wine club we aren’t doing our job of helping expand our customers’ wine experience.”

Their target market includes people who are curious about food and wine, and who want to share their discoveries with others. The Dinner Party makes winemakers from around the world accessible to local customers through wine dinners and in-shop tastings.

While George and Mary focus on knowing each customer’s preferences, they have also broadened customers’ horizons. After George and Mary brought one customer a bottle of pink rosé during a dinner, he became a big fan.

“He ordered the first of many cases over many summers,” they said.

George and Mary report having overcome bad snow storms in order to get shipments out in time, and also readjusting their marketing strategy during their early years, which took place during the Great Recession. They overcame such hurdles by recalling their desire to offer customers a unique service, and by getting clarity and focus from the Idaho SBDC at North Idaho College.

“Bill Jhung and his team preach clarity at every turn and give you the tools to find that clarity. He keeps us focused keenly on our mission (which isn’t easy!) and executing on it through our near-term and long-term goals. The message is simple but the behavior changes are not!”

While George and Mary aim to be the first place customers think of when planning the perfect wedding, business event, or other occasion, they also serve the local community in other ways, such as assisting with Hospice of North Idaho’s annual wine tasting and supporting the Boys and Girls Club, Excel Foundation, Kootenai Humane Society and other organizations.

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The Dinner Party is located at 3510 N. Government Way in Coeur d’Alene, and online at For more information about North Idaho College’s SBDC, please visit