The 2018 Retailers of the Year Part 1

Expanding the Customer Base

By Sarah Protzman Howlett

If you owned the largest store between Denver and Las Vegas, you might be tempted to kick back with the knowledge you had the market pretty well cornered. Not Brandi Pollock. As owner of Fishers Liquor Barn in Grand Junction, Colorado, Pollock has made sure Fishers is not only consistently advertising and active on social media, but that its also a fixture in the community, donating regularly to nearby Colorado Mesa University among other institutions and causes.

At the fore of recognizable local brands, Pollock says Fishers is not just the only liquor store in town that delivers, but that it also recently increased its delivery radius. On its regular 150-plus-mile jaunts to ritzy ski towns like Telluride and Aspen, deliveries might not always be large orders—but the visibility is well worth it, she says. People see the Fishers van and they call asking, Do you deliver up here? Its added a whole new dynamic to our business and increased our sales.

Brandi Pollock, owner of Fisher’s Liquor Barn in Grand Junction, Colorado.

At the store in Grand Junction, Fishers now offers reserved curbside parking for pickups, and has continued to grow online sales. It also offers home or business delivery, using its own drivers.

The store is also happy to cater a number of nearby ski areas like Aspen, Snowmass and Telluride. Fishers is regularly asked to stock drinks in fancy vacation rentals or arrange gift baskets. Every time we do a delivery up to Aspen—at least twice a month, Pollock says—its big. After [we started] that, word of mouth became very successful. Fishers ski-town marketing includes some newspaper ads, but is still mostly social media driven. And when the snow melts, theres always Country Jam—an annual summer music festival in Mack, Colorado, that ferries some $11 million to the local economy. Its like Christmas for us, she says.

The single-location, 28,000-square-foot store supports 25 full-time employees; 30 part-time; and eight managers. Wayne Fisher founded the store in 1980, in the same location his father ran Fishers Dairy. Little did Pollock know that, with the opening of Fishers Market and Premium Natural Meats in December 2007, she would end up taking the company back to—or at least close to—its roots. The shop sits behind the liquor store and sells meat, cheese, seafood, organic produce, pastas, sauces and more. It also carries over a dozen brands that are local to Colorado.

We dont have Whole Foods out here or any way to buy quality meats and cheeses, Pollock says. The market offers catering, and also purchased a vacant restaurant in the same plaza to use for employee training. Sometimes it will rent that space to customers for office meetings, for which Fishers provides food and drinks.

In the past 12 months, Fishers has fully incorporated social media into all its marketing, bridging any gap that might exist between the two storefronts. We are able to pair foods from our market along with products from the liquor store, Pollock says, and also puts signage in its liquor store to encourage customers to swing around back to find a cheese pairing or assemble an appetizer tray for a dinner party.

While Pollock says word of mouth is the stores strongest asset in the small western Colorado town of 61,000, the best way she has found to measure customer satisfaction is through Google reviews. She says they are arriving, unsolicited, at a rate of a dozen or so a weekend.

I never review other businesses, but maybe I should, because I love getting these responses, she says. And when there is a bad one, I always respond. I always want to know what I can do to help. Absorbing feedback and having an educated staff are the main ways Pollock ensures Fishers reputation endures.

All employees must be TIPS certified every two years, and it offers Level 1 and 2 sommelier training. Our store is not just going to have somebody pointing and saying, Our beers back there,’” Pollock says. Customers will learn about new beers or employees favorite beers. This also sets us apart from grocery stores and convenience stores.

This differentiation will become evermore important come January 1, 2019, when Colorado law will begin allowing grocery stores and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer. A Target across the street will be its closest competitor when the new law rolls out.

Id be asking a lot of money if they want to buy us out, she says, laughing. I dont think that would happen.

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