A Nostalgic Atmosphere
By Andrew Madigan
Lizz’s was founded in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1977 by Lizz Dunlap, one of the city’s first female business owners. She built the shop on what was considered “worthless land.” Now it’s a historic site and Lizz’s is the oldest liquor store in Oak Ridge. Aaron Wells, the current owner, bought the store in 2015 from his friend Kenneth Montgomery.
The first thing you might notice about Lizz’s is the nostalgic atmosphere. Shoppers find themselves dancing to classics by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Louis Prima and Aretha Franklin. The second thing you’ll find is a great selection of whiskey, scotch and—especially over the past year—sake and Asian spirits. They also stock a wide array of liqueurs and aperitifs, which you won’t typically find elsewhere in East Tennessee.
Customers are number one at Lizz’s. “Whether they come in looking for a pint of Popov,” Wells says, “or a handle of high-dollar whiskey, our customer service leaves everyone feeling like royalty.” Lizz’s was voted best Wine & Spirits store in the county by Oak Ridger newspaper in both 2016 and 2017. The staff is fully engaged with the public—they know their customers’ names and what they like to drink.
Wells and his wife Melissa have a four-year-old, Maggie, who’s an important part of the picture. Lizz’s artist-in-residence, she’s responsible for custom-decorating paper grocery bags, to the delight of shoppers, and she’s not afraid to let the other staff members know when something needs to be tidied up or bottles need pricing. Wells is excited to have her on board full-time one day (when she’s older) so he’ll have more time to go fishing.
Wells is a true part of the community. He coaches basketball, football and baseball, sits on more than a dozen local boards and is a great supporter of Oak Ridge. “I love my city,” he says. “And I strive daily to operate the friendliest store in town.”
Welcoming Neighborhood Store
By Maura Keller
Founded in 2010, Cork and Barrel recently moved to its new location in Hamden, CT. Considered to be a welcoming neighborhood store, Cork and Barrel’s staff prides itself on carrying customers’ unique beverage product interests or special ordering the products for them. In fact, the store’s promise is, “ If you don’t see what you want, we’ll order it for you!” Considered to be the go-to source for liquor, the store’s wines are special-ordered and the walk-in cooler ushers customers eager to explore the store’s wide array of craft beer.
“We train our employees on an ongoing basis,” says Varsha Mehta, owner of Cork and Barrel. “Our family values and our customer service set us apart in our marketplace.”
Cork & Barrel also takes service to the next level, offering a wide selection of common and not-so-common brands in every category. It’s important to Mehta and her employees that customers think of Cork & Barrel first when planning for weddings, parties and other special occasions.
As a family-owned store, Cork & Barrel’s single business accomplishment during the last 12 months includes moving into their new location as well as the vast selection available to their new customers. During the next 12 months, the managers of Cork & Barrel hope to offer classes for customers.