Welcome to Part 4 of our series that recognizes our 2018 Retailers of the Year. In this post we honor Chilly’s, East Branch Organics, Grapes the Wine Company, Banks Wine & Spirits, Lizz’s, and Cork and Barrel.
Beverage Dynamics for the second time opened up its 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 at the second annual Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference in Denver. Congratulations to everyone who won, and good luck to the retailers who enter next year’s awards!
The Next Generation
Chilly’s is a classic American retail store that opened 22 years ago in Greenfield, Indiana. As Steve Coram, President of Chilly’s, puts it, “We were hoping to build something for our children.” Well, that’s exactly what happened. Today the business has grown and prospered. Children Matt and Abbey are now 26 and 27, vital parts of the family store, and Coram is proud of the kids and their business.
Originally, Chilly’s was a cozy 1,500-square-foot store on Main Street. They’re still on Main (just across the street, in fact), but the new location has 4,000 square feet. After significant investment in time, money and hard work, the new store was unveiled in October.
Coram and his customers love the new space. The broad, glass storefront floods the shop with natural light, and the nearly 500-square-foot, ice-cold beer cave, or “Chilly’s Chill Chamber,” is a favorite among shoppers.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature is the tasting bar in the middle of the store, where patrons can sample beer, wine or spirits. With custom granite counters and tastings three nights a week, Chilly’s has a festive and elegant vibe. They offer a wide selection of drinks, but specialize in craft beer and bourbon.
Coram is also proud of his employees, who have excellent product knowledge and always greet customers with a smile. There’s very little staff turnover at Chilly’s. Coram’s employees have been with him for at least 30 months and as long as 16 years. “I always try to pay our employees more than our competitors pay. I always try to treat our employees like family,” he says.
Coram is also active in community events, charity work and the beverage industry. His philosophy is simple: treat people with respect, and charge a fair price for quality products.
A Unique Combination
By Annelise Kelly
When Heather and Tom Coffin opened their Keene, NY store in 2011, they launched a bold project combining a garden center and a wine and spirits shop. East Branch Organics features an eclectic, closely-curated selection of fine wines and spirits, along with edible and ornamental plants suited to the local Adirondack climate. They added craft beer to their product line in 2017, which has proved popular. “Although we just added it in late November,” Heather Coffin says, “it has already increased our foot traffic significantly.”
Also for sale in the garden center: the usual selection of functional and decorative nursery items, such as tools, gloves, fertilizer and gifts. The Coffins round out their offerings with floral design for weddings and events, as well as landscaping services.
Keene is a small town of about 1,100, but “almost everyone driving to the Adirondacks passes by,” Coffin says. While the “organics” in the title initially referred to the nursery aspect of the business, they focus on organic, sustainable, craft and small-batch products. “Initially it was easier to stock lots of organic wines and spirits, but finding organic beer was harder,” she adds.
Heather says her number-one tip for success is “good marketing: Instagram, Facebook, word of mouth and email marketing.” East Branch Organics maintains a local presence in the community digital newsletter and posts daily on Instagram, which especially resonates with their craft beer clientele. East Branch also makes its beer list searchable via Beermenus.com and the UnTapped app.
The rustic aesthetic of their five-and-a-half acre property attracts passing motorists with lush, colorful plants in spring, summer and fall. “In the winter, people are so excited to see a thriving business in a sleepy, destination town,” Coffin says. “We’ve found an interesting mix of products that almost never fails to make even the most difficult customers delighted.”