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But continuing the family ownership structure can be challenging, especially when competing against large chain stores. In Tennessee, it’s illegal to own more than one liquor store. However, wine will soon be sold in grocery stores beginning next July as part of the WIGS (Wine in Grocery Stores) legislation passed in 2014.
Buster’s has since gone on the offensive, expanding from 10,000 to 16,000 square feet, while adding a multitude of products such as low gravity beer, growlers, packaged cheeses and meats, and accessories.
“Before this legislation, liquor stores were only allowed to carry wine, spirits, and high gravity beer,” Hammond says. “Even a corkscrew was off limits. Now corkscrews, YETI products and gift bags are some of our most popular items in stock.”
Nearly doubling the size of their retail space is bound to bring some new revenue streams to Buster’s.
“We are spending $1 million in remodeling and renovating the entire 16,000 square feet so we will be able to compete,” Rommy says. “A lot of stores in Memphis and the state are worried about the increased competition from the grocery stores. I just think it’s an opportunity for us to evolve into something bigger and better, since we will be able to handle many more items than before.”
Besides adding many new products, the Hammond family sought to enhance the overall customer experience by widening all isles to at least five feet, lowering all interior aisle shelving to create better sight lines across the store, and adding directional lighting for better product presentation.
As Josh Hammond explains, every inch of the store has undergone improvements with new wood plank luxury vinyl flooring, ceiling grid, LED lighting, updated cabinetry and shelving and all new hardware, with the introduction of touch screen options for their registers.
“We now have ten registers instead of five, and we increased our cold selections from twelve to twenty-nine doors,” Josh says. “But what we are most proud of are our two tasting bars on each end of the store in the shopping area, where our staff can sample customers on any product in the store. The tasting bars double as on-the-floor workstations. Each bar/desk has two registers and phones so our staff can stay on the floor and keep a watchful eye on customers. And we’ve installed a commercial dishwasher to handle all the stemware and tasting glasses.”
While handing changes to the industry and expanding and renovating their retail space to stay relevant keeps the Hammond family on their toes, they also relish maintaining strong relationships with their suppliers and distributors.
“We like to treat our suppliers and reps with the utmost courtesy,” Josh says. “Their impact on our business can be just as valuable as our best customers.”
Rommy agrees. “We have always had a great relationship with our distributors and suppliers because we have treated them the same way we want to be treated—with respect,” he says. “Recently, I ran into a long-time driver, who works for one of the wholesalers and he said, ‘All the drivers always looked forward to delivering to your store because they were treated so nice.’ It’s a simple concept. It’s a shame more people can’t figure that out.”