The 2018 Retailers of the Year Part 5

Bigger Than it Looks

By Andrew Madigan

In 1989, Andy Klein—a local businessman in Aberdeen, Maryland—opened Beards Hill Liquors. He hired Daniel Hull to transform the shop into a luxury destination for wine and spirits, and together they did just that, overhauling management, training, marketing, community outreach and customer experience. They managed to both lower prices and increase sales, which have nearly doubled over the years. 

Beards Hill is sometimes called the Mary Poppins Bag, Hull explains, “because it looks much bigger on the inside than it does from the outside.” The store has a broad range of products in a fairly small space, yet everything is neat and organized. 

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According to Hull, the General Manager, they’re indebted to “a fantastic, diverse customer base.” Beards Hill is close to a military installation (Aberdeen Proving Ground), Ripken Stadium and Interstate 95, which means shoppers come from far and wide. Customer service is a top priority and Hull is passionate about special requests. If a requested product isn’t available, but comes on the market years later, he’ll track it down—overseas, if necessary—buy it, and get in touch with the customer. 

“We believe that retail is more than just putting products and prices on a shelf,” he says. “We get to know our customers, and build the customer experience around their needs.” 

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The retail team is knowledgeable, well trained and dedicated. They all receive TIPS certification in addition to customer service, sales and product training.

At Beards Hill, customers are treated like guests. The store has special discounts for seniors, teachers, military and first responders. They also use “state-of-the-art POS and inventory management software” to streamline and organize their operation. 

 Hull is clearly delighted by his team. “We take pride in our store and the products we sell,” he says. “We care about our reputation and give back to the community that supports us.”

Expanding the Business

By Annelise Kelly

In March 2016, Gonzo Mirch bought the oldest business in Basalt, Colorado: Jimbo’s Wine and Liquors. As a liquor rep, he’d developed a good relationship with the previous owner, who stayed on two days a week as the in-house wine expert. 

Since taking over, he’s made a few changes. He’s expanded the product line to include glass pipes – since recreational cannabis is legal in Colorado. “Our cigarette rep had them well-priced. We started more as a service for customers – now we’re selling about 20 a week,” he says Jimbo’s also sells cigars.

His new event service, Jimbo’s Integral Bar Solutions, has had a huge impact on the bottom line. “I work with wedding planners, chefs and caterers who refer clients to me,” Mirch says. “We give a quote on spirits, mixers, garnish and ice, and run the beverage service. It’s a small store and I can only get so many people in the door, so selling full cases is great. One event equals one, even one and a half, days of sales in the stores. Last year, sales went up 20 percent: 15 or 18 percent was from catering.”

His Local’s Choice of the Month program reflects Mirch’s central philosophy. “Listen to your customers and make sure they know that you care about them,” he says. A local picks a favorite product, and a framed picture of customer and bottle, discounted by 10% for the month, are featured on the counter.

“Training your customers is almost as important as training your sales associates,” he says, so he offers staff wine tastings every Wednesday and public tastings every Thursday.

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