Craft Beer Boom
Legacy’s beer-tasting bar features 16 beers on tap and the largest growler station in Arkansas. “It’s one of the most important parts of our store,” Bevans says.
Dell says Arkansas is experiencing a craft-beer boom; Legacy’s number-one selling beer is locally made, he says, and new breweries are popping up all the time. He doesn’t worry about competition–more is always better.
Because of liquor laws in Arkansas, a state with numerous dry counties, Legacy can’t sell any beer under 16.9 ounces unless it’s in a group of three or more—but it hasn’t been too much of a bother because of the store’s clientele. “We have the staff on hand who can sell these higher-end 12-ounce bottles,” Dell says, “and we want to expose people to those high-end products.”
Wright says he wanted to do develop the craft program at Legacy around the idea of not having anything static. Take Legacy’s craft beer “pick-six” wall: A standard $9.99 pick-six is common in beverage retailing, “but we wanted to change that to expose people to different styles,” Wright says. “We have an extensive pick-six wall and we are going to expand it further, but each bottle is individually priced.”
And when Legacy does tastings, it tries to introduce something new there, too: When the store hosted Colorado-based Oskar Blues, it tapped a Bourbon barrel–aged version of its imperial red ale. “People can go to tastings at other liquor stores,” Wright says. “We want them to remember the one they have here.”
Beneath a massive 21-foot TV, which the staff has dubbed “the Legatron,” sits the store’s tasting bar and growler station. The sample bar includes the growler station and two four-bottle Napa Technologies wine-tap systems. One box is red and one is white, and they are climate controlled. In addition to ensuring accurate wine sample pours at the perfect half-ounce required by state law, the taps allow Legacy to offer more wines without wasting leftovers from open bottles.
The store offers 16 craft beers to choose from, for either 32- or 64-ounce growlers. Many are not available in grocery stores due to a higher ABV, and some are only released in kegs. Legacy’s growler fill stations employ a counter-pressure gas system, which keeps foaming to a minimum. There’s also an option to top off with CO2, which prolongs shelf life. Kegs are kept in the store’s main beer cooler.
Large-format packaged beers are kept in a “beer cave” to allow for easy access, and leave room in the main beer cooler for the keg system.
The Legatron also runs store advertisements of in-store specials; wine, beer, and spirits videos; and upcoming events like beer and wine tastings. They’ve even used it to Skype with wine makers, master brewers, and distillers for presentations, tastings and Q&As.
The store also sells Mercer’s wine ice cream in pints with flavors such as cabernet chocolate and white zin; locally made chocolate, cheese, wine decanters and dispensers. They’re also looking to expand to a larger selection of stemware and glassware.
“Overall, we are passionate about Arkansas and Arkansas products,” Akins says. “We feel a strong need to help them succeed, whether it’s beer, spirits or cocktail mixers.”
Because Bevans and Akins had worked together in business management, they were familiar with some of the lessons others may learn the hard way. But learning to buy inventory was a new experience—one Bevans says was his steepest learning curve.
“It directly impacts our pricing on the shelves,” he says, “so we learned to pay close attention to distributors’ deals. [In Arkansas,] we don’t have the luxury of shopping around distributor to distributor” because each has its own portfolio of products and are the only one carrying those products.
For Akins, the biggest challenge has been learning all the products. “We have thousands of SKUs, especially in our new store,” he says, “but that’s why we looked for specialists in each department.”
The store tries to host as many events as it can. “We want to expose our customers to all these new products,” Bevans says. “If we have a day open, we’re going to try to book something.”
In mid-April, it held a meet-and-greet, bottle signing and tasting with the cast of the TV show “Full Throttle Saloon”—a reality show based on the world’s largest biker bar of the same name, located in Sturgis, South Dakota. They were in town promoting their new line off S’loonshine and flavored shines. “We had a lot of bikers and fans of the show,” Hamilton says. BD
Sarah Protzman Howlett is a freelance writer and editor based in Boulder, Colo. A veteran of Condé Nast Publications in New York City, her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine; Prevention; Denver’s 5280; and trade magazines across various industries.
A view of Legacy’s expansive floorplan from the mezzanine offices.
Legacy offers more than 2,000 SKUs of spirits, 1,500 SKUs of beer and 3,000 SKUs of wine on its 8,500 square foot sales floor.