The 2018 Retailers of the Year Part 6

Welcome to the final part of our series that recognizes our 2018 Retailers of the Year.

Check out Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

For the second time we opened up the annual Retailers of the Year Awards to a nomination process, attracting entries from top retailers across the country. Many received nominated from wholesalers, suppliers and other industry vendors, while some nominated themselves. All were required to complete a detailed entry form that included financial information, product mix, staffing and training policies, advertising spend and community engagement.

After our editorial team reviewed the entries, we chose 32 retailers as the best of the best. They represent every part of the off-premise industry, from single-store operations to large regional chains.

Winners received their awards last week at the second annual Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference in Denver. Congratulations to everyone who won, and good luck to the retailers who enter next years awards!

Mixing On and Off-Premise

By Andrew Madigan

Open since 2004, Baltimores Socialize is a big, friendly store with a wide selection. One of its unique selling points is an upscale wine lounge in-store. The name says it all: Socialize. Shoppers can take their drinks to go or enjoy them in the comfortable, spacious lounge and mingle with fellow shoppers. One customer called it a hidden treasure.Another says, I feel like Im in Vegas or Miami!

Initially, Socialize was a typical liquor store, according to owner Gurbinder Singh. Since then, hes cultivated a vast inventory with hundreds of new products to satisfy the needs of his customer base. Today, Socialize specializes in beer – craft, import and domestic. The store is organized according to geographic region because it stocks beer from all corners of the globe.

Singh calls his business a father-son joint venture.His son, Gundeep, who graduated from Towson University with a BS in Marketing, has been instrumental in rebranding Socialize to make it more successful than ever.

The store is impeccably clean, organized and elegant, especially after a recent inside-and-out renovation. From light-up onyx and marble countertops to a multicolored glazed-glass wall and crystal chandeliers, Socialize has a chic, sophisticated look.

There are many special things about the store, but customer service is first among them. Socialize offers special prices for bulk orders, discount days for wine, and preferred customer coupons.Singh says of his business philosophy, For us, customer service is one of the most vital components for a successful business. And were known for it!

Competition from All Sides

By Annelise Kelly

Is it fair to say liquor is in his blood?

Tri-State Liquors manager Andrew Byer says, “My father Joseph Byer started with Seagrams and worked there for about 17 years, then with Paddington Corporation, so he taught my brother and me the business from the get-go. He had a great background in the supply and distribution side, before finally realizing his dream to open his own store in 1984.

Tri-State values staff like family. We offer a good program with health care and paid vacation, moving them up and getting them educated,Byer says. Out of about 30 employees, at least 10 have been with us 15 years or longer, a few longer than 30 years.Though golden retriever Bentley might be the most popular family member. Hes always in the store, kind of like the store mascot,he adds.

Byers top tip is stay relevant, stay strong. Make sure youre always moving forward because everything is always changing. No matter how big or small, stay right on the edge of things and dont get complacent.To that end, hes currently working on an e-commerce platform, in anticipation of regulatory changes permitting online ordering.

Located a stones throw from the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line, Tri-State has lots of competition in the neighborhood. Pricing is usually cheaper in Delaware over Pennsylvania anyway, where the sales tax is eight, eight-and-a-half percent. Weve got the Wal-Mart of discount liquor (Total Wine) right up the street. But if anything its kept us sharper. Weve flourished and grown really well along with it.

Community-Owned

By Maura Keller

Educating and training employees is top of mind for the managers of River Bend Liquors in Windom, MN. Not only can employees participate in ongoing tastings to expand product knowledge from distributor representatives, but each new employee also works closely with managers, across a variety of shifts, to learn about the stores policies and procedures.

In the world of beverage retail, product knowledge is key and the stores managers recognize that if an employee has a good base of product knowledge and are personable, customers will gravitate to the store and trust employeesrecommendations. Using social media, the store also advertises rare product releases and promotes special events, tasting and contests to customers.

As a municipally owned store, River Bends managers have to work closely with Windoms finance controller and city administration to build the stores budget and eventually get it approved with the city council. The stores profits go back to the local community. As such, during the last 12 months, the store provided $500,000 to Windoms new emergency services building.

An air of continuous improvement resounds through all of River Bend Liquors activities. From innovated store updates to new signage to improved marketing initiatives, the stores team works diligently to offer ongoing updates that entice customers. In addition, the store prides itself on having many employees involved in the community outreach programs—raising money for the local animal shelter and for childrens cancer research.

The store also hosts the community wine tasting event through Windoms Chamber of Commerce.

Winners We Recently Covered

These retailers were featured in last years awards coverage (or in a recent issue of our off-premise sister publication Beverage Dynamics).

The Wine Store

  • Westerly, RI
  • 2017 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: One
  • Average Store Size: 3,200 square-feet
  • Founded: 1984

Online Strategy: Create a safe and secure online shopping experience for customers and offer products to a larger audience. We offer all products for purchase online for local delivery and in-store pickup. We also ship nationally where permitted. Our email list is developed through store sign-ups and social media. Subscribers are sent promotions weekly and monthly, with marketing tied into our social media postings and other advertising.

Community Involvement: Partnership with the Westerly Armory Restoration by donating product for fundraising events. We also held a fundraiser for the Westerly Land Trust and donated to the 125th anniversary of the Westerly Library event.

Jubilation Wine and Spirits

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • 2017 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: One
  • Average Store Size: 6,000 square-feet
  • Founded: 1944

Community Involvement: Our customers know that if theyre passionate about a particular charitable organization well help them by donating a raffle item, attending an event or even giving our time and energy to plan a fundraiser. Giving back to the community that supports us is an important aspect of our business.

Differentiators: We are one of the only retailers in New Mexico that has a growler fill station system. We have eight taps and pride ourselves on offering local and eclectic brews that are not bottled or canned. Our wine club membership now includes more than 250 customers, and we offer them wines that are brought into New Mexico exclusively for us. We can also act on new products and get them into the market first because of our size. We sell products that arent in the big box stores, but we can sell a lot of volume. Wholesalers come to us first because they know we bring customers in the door to taste through our marketing plans, email promotions and social media engagement.

Acme Liquor Store

  • Crested Butte, CO
  • 2017 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: One
  • Average Store Size: 4,300 square-feet
  • Founded: 1970

Recent Improvements: In the past year, weve improved video surveillance, product selection, delivery options, online ordering and massively increased our social media presence. Theres also been more interaction with customers, the introduction of in-store tastings and increased staff exposure to industry events like wine tastings, sommelier courses and the like.

Differentiators: Location, selection and customer service. We also happen to have the cleanest, most well-lit, organized store with the most refrigeration in the country. Customers enjoy a walk-in white wine cooler and 20 beer doors. Our upstairs storage, fed by an old coal mine conveyor belt, also allows us to buy and store product in quantities and discounts that competitors cant.

Timers Beverage Center

  • Racine, Wisconsin
  • 2017 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: One
  • Average Store Size: 12,000 square-feet
  • Founded: 1926

Online Strategy: We use Instrgram, Facebook and a private customer email list. We feature products periodically and include our monthly ad on our website. We take pre-orders for special releases via email. In email, we focus mostly on wines by offering discounted prices compared to whats in the store.

Community Involvement: We raised almost $10,000 this year for the Racine Zoo and Big Brothers Big Sisters combined. We also assist other charities with wine tastings and fundraising donations.

The Fridge Wholesale Liquor

  • Manhattan, Kansas
  • 2017 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: One
  • Average Store Size: 10,000 square-feet
  • Founded: 2001

Recent Improvements: Weve upgraded all of our in-store lighting to LED. We also purchased three new delivery vehicles, installed a new POS system and added in-store advertising using Sellr.

Community Involvement: Last year we gave $25,000 to local organizations, ranging from little league teams to the Flint Hills Breadbasket. Were well-known for providing product and funds for local charity events. Weve won a Purple Apple award for top retail liquor store six years in a row, which is voted on by KSU staff and students. Weve also been Readers Choice for top retail store in the past five years in our local newspaper.

Garys Wine & Marketplace

  • Wayne, NJ
  • 2012 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: 5
  • Average Store Size: 13,000 square-feet
  • Founded: 1987

Loyalty Program: Benefits to members include bonus savings coupons, invitations to special events, access to an individualized Garys portfolio that tracks past purchases and more. Any customer can join for free.

Online Strategy: Were looking to promote the Garys Experienceonline by sharing the enormous wealth of knowledge we offer with everyone. One of our most successful campaigns promoted Garys 30th Anniversary using content online, via social media and through TV advertising. It reminded the community that Garys is a trusted resource and promotes the best selection.

More Info: Read all about Garys Wine & Marketplace in the March/April 2018 issue of Beverage Dynamics.

Twin Liquors

  • Austin, Texas
  • 2010, 2017 and 2018 Winner
  • Locations: 80
  • Average Store Size: 3,500 square-feet
  • Founded: 1937

Advertising & Promotions: The Dollar Sale occurs twice a year in February and August. This Black Fridayof wines and spirits is a longstanding tradition created by the Jabour family as a simple token of gratitude to patrons for shopping with Twin Liquors. All prices are dropped to the wholesale price, plus $1.

Community Involvement: Twin Liquors gives to approximately 400 events and organizations annually. The neighborhood feel of our locations and our connection to the community through charity is what sets us apart.

Garfields Beverage Warehouse

  • Norridge, IL
  • 2018 Winner
  • Locations: 6
  • Average Store Size:
  • 10,000 square-feet
  • Founded: 1951

Recent Improvements: Within the last year weve upgraded our POS and back-end management software. We now have a centralized database thanks to upgrades to our inventory management throughout the chain. Were in the final stages of a new e-commerce build-out, and were constantly improving our product selection and shelf sets. Were always undergoing resets to stay ahead of market trends.

Differentiators: Weve built our business on three main pillars: customer service, competitive pricing and product selection. We find that gives the customer the shopping experience theyre looking for. Most of our customers know us by name, which helps in creating a family atmosphere. We dont want to be a big box store and were always sure to maintain our roots.

Winners Over the Years

In the modern history of Beverage DynamicsRetailers of the Year program, industry icons from across the country have been named winners. From 1996 to 2015, one winner was chosen each year. Since then, the program has expanded to represent the full array of businesses within the off-premise industry. The following companies were chosen as the best of the bestduring the past two decades.

2017:

  • Acme Liquor Store (CO)
  • Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits (MD)
  • Boise Co-Op Wine Shop (ID)
  • Fridge Wholesale Liquor (KS)
  • Jubilation Wine & Spirits (NM)
  • Lakeville Liquors (MN)
  • Mayfair Liquors (CO)
  • Mega-Bev (MI)
  • Mount Airy Liquors (MD)
  • Oliver Ts Market (MI)
  • Pecos Liquors (DE)
  • Speakeasy Liquors (IL)
  • Timers Beverage Center (WI)
  • Twin Liquors (TX)
  • The Wine Store (RI)

2016: Cork Liquors (IN), Half Time Beverage (NY)

2015: Trigs Cellar 70 (WI)

2014: Brown Derby (MO)

2013: Premier Wine & Spirits (NY)

2012: Garys Wine & Marketplace (NJ)

2011: The Party Source (KY)

2010: Twin Liquors (TX)

2009: Yankee Spirits (MA)

2008: Total Wine (MD)

2007: Specs Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods (TX)

2006: Berbiglias (MO)

2005: Applejack Wine & Spirits (CO)

2004: Frugal Macdoogals (TN)

2003: Haskells (MN)

2002: Centennial (TX)

2001: Sherry-Lehmann (NY)

2000: Beverages & More (CA)

1999: Prime Wine & Liquor (NY)

1998: Binnys Beverage Depot (IL)

1997: Siegels (TX)

1996: ABC Wine & Spirits (FL)

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