An Unconventional Chain

A Unique Retail Experience

So what is it about Gomer’s that makes it such a unique destination, and a place that the Probst brothers and McLeroy have dedicated so much of their lives to? Both McLeroy and Jack Probst attribute most of it to Moody himself.

“Gomer was always dedicated to providing new and innovative products to our customers, and that rationale is something we continue to abide by to this day,” Jack Probst says. “The key is to offer items that customers want that they can’t find anywhere else. We also give great customer service. When customers visit the big box stores, the environment is cold. We’re friendly and we make an effort to decorate the stores to make them feel warm and inviting. People like the interactions they have here.”

Gomer’s focuses on offering a wide variety of wines and craft beers, complimenting its broad selections with quality customer service and competitive pricing. Select locations also provide party and wedding planning, corporate packages and delivery options (although delivery is not allowed in the state of Kansas, so McLeroy cannot offer that service). The stores manage several wine clubs and offer weekly in-store beer tastings, as well as wine and spirit tastings several times per month.

In order to ensure that all operational bases are covered, the Probst brothers share duties on the sales floor but split other responsibilities. Jim concentrates his efforts on the spirits category, working with distillers and also overseeing operations management. Jack focuses on cultivating the wine and beer lines, as well as administrative work and employee relations (the Probsts’ two store locations currently employ 20 staff members).


The Probsts have been successful running a family business, but does sibling rivalry ever get in the way? Surprisingly, the answer is “no.”

“We’ve always been close. I even sold Jim his very first house: it used to be my house!” Jack Probst says, laughing. “That’s not to say we have it all figured out. We’re still figuring out how to split the duties. It was just me doing everything solo for the first 15 years, and we always seem to have more ground to cover.”

Jim agrees. “You never know coming into a situation like that how it will all work out, but it’s actually gone very well for us,” he adds.

In addition to their other responsibilities, the Probst brothers share advertising and marketing duties, an aspect of the business that they built from the ground up.

“We never really had a branding guide before 2010,” Jack Probst recalls. “I am the one who developed it, and then we worked with the Kansas store to get them more involved with the work that we’re doing.”


Chain Challenges and Benefits

One of the major challenges Gomer’s faces is that, due to locations in multiple states, the company must adhere to different laws related to pricing and regulations. This makes it difficult to run uniform marketing campaigns, and advertising is often different Missouri than in Kansas. In order to keep track of so many moving parts, the Probsts hold monthly advertising meetings to discuss the various campaigns in place, and also to touch base about new products with each other and with their senior staff.

Despite these hurdles, the brand has created innovative promotional campaigns utilizing television, radio, print, e-mail, and social media, and has worked to make the most of its limited
advertising budget that pales in comparison to many larger chain stores. Gomer’s is actually well known for its promotions,
perhaps the most notable being the sponsored spots that air during all televised Kansas City Royals baseball games. In addition to showing two commercials during the game, Gomer’s sponsors a post-game segment called “Gomer’s Homers” which summarizes home runs and other game highlights.

On the Kansas side, McLeroy’s store employs between 16 and 20 staff members at any given time, but there’s no one else steering the ship but him (though he credits his wife for her help). McLeroy says he’s worked seven days per week for the past 30 years, which is essential for him to keep all operations on track.

In addition to maintaining Moody’s business philosophy
of always being fair to the customer, McLeroy takes things a step further by placing an emphasis on his vendor relationships as well.

“You can’t put a price on the kind of relationship we have with our vendors,” he says. “I haven’t checked an order in over a decade. I don’t have to. These people are my business partners. We each know that we have each other’s best interests at heart.”

Looking out for people’s best interests doesn’t stop with his business associates. For McLeroy, one of the most important aspects of his role in the liquor industry is one that isn’t often talked about by retailers: social responsibility.

“Here at Gomer’s, we know 80 percent of our customers by name. We have a good and honest reputation with them, and they trust us,” McLeroy says. “I train my staff to look for customers who are overconsuming. They look for signs and try to help people if they can. Selling the most product isn’t always the most important thing, or the right thing to do.”

Jim Probst agrees that close relationships with customers are what helps set Gomer’s apart from other retailers. Each Gomer’s store has an owner in place, which makes a difference.

“People like to come in and talk to you, and they like
to know the people who own the store,” he says. “It also makes a difference in the way the store itself is run. Many larger stores won’t have an owner onsite every day who is so personally invested in the business and involved in the decisions that
are made on a daily basis. That kind of involvement makes a big impact.”



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