Twin Liquors was named 2019 Retailer of the Year at the first annual Beverage Dynamics Top 100 Retailers. Below we look at what led to this Texas chain taking home the top honor.
What began as a small general store in Austin, Texas, during the late 1800s now consists of more than 90 Twin Liquors retail locations spread across the state.
A fourth-generation family-owned and -operated business, Twin Liquors adheres to the same values and principles on which the first store was founded on, which pretty much boils down to one word: service.
In addition to regularly going above and beyond to meet the evolving needs of their customers, the Jabour family extends their service-focused mentality to the company’s employees and wholesalers as well. The result is an engaged staff, valued wholesaler partners and a loyal customer base that has helped propel Twin Liquors to new heights of success.
A Family History With Deep Texas Roots
The Jabour family opened its first Texas retail store at the end of the 19th century.
In 1937, four years after the repeal of Prohibition, Jabour’s Package Store opened in Austin and housed a liquor store, drugstore and soda fountain. Within a decade, the Jabours expanded the business to include three liquor stores and a tavern that only sold beer. In 1981, after having spent nearly 40 years in the industry, the second generation of Jabours decided to step down and leave the business in the hands of the next generation, which is still currently at the helm: David Jabour serves as the company president, alongside his sister, Margaret Jabour, who is the executive vice president. David’s wife, Sylvia, works in Twin Liquors’ legal department, and Margaret’s son, Michael Salome, is a member of the company’s marketing department.
Shortly after David and Margaret took the reigns of the family business, they opened a new Austin-based store in 1982, which was the first location named Twin Liquors. The name was created to honor David and Margaret’s father, Theodore Jabour, who co-owned Jabour’s Package Store with his identical twin brother, and who David and Margaret credit for passing along his passion for the beverage alcohol industry.
“Growing up in this environment, in our father’s store, David and I never felt like we’d end up working in the same industry, but we really grew attached to it and learned so much from our dad,” Margaret explains. “We also saw an incredible opportunity to elevate the industry; give the stores a fresh, department store-type feel; incorporate different types of in-store events; and just really set a precedence for the next iteration of beverage retail stores.”
During the 1990s, the Jabours decided to take advantage of the growth of the Austin metropolitan area by expanding Twin Liquors even more. Slowly but steadily, the company opened new locations and acquired a number of existing businesses, including Dan’s Wine & Spirits, Reuben’s Wine & Spirits, KP Liquors, and most recently Sigel’s Fine Wines & Great Spirits in Dallas. Currently, Twin Liquors has more than 90 retail locations across the state and employs more than 800 staff members. And although growth is definitely part of the company’s ongoing business strategy, it’s never been the top priority of the business. The Jabours are in this industry because they love it. They’re passionate about providing the highest level of service to their customers and offering the best selection of products at a fair price point. Everything else is a bonus.
“In the early days, we never had any long-term plans for expansion,” David admits. “Most of it has just been organic growth with a delicate balance of acquisition. But Margaret and I both grew up in our father’s liquor store, and he was a great retailer who understood that you had to build relationships one customer at a time. He also had a passion for this industry, which he instilled in us. We are so passionate about this business and the everyday work that we do for our customers. It’s exciting.”
The Twin Liquors Distinction
Currently, Twin Liquors stores are spread out across the Austin, San Antonio, Dallas (Sigel’s) and Houston metropolitan areas.
Since the company’s inception, Twin Liquors has been known as a destination for single malt scotch, which is a top category at all store locations. Other popular products include American whiskey and tequila.
Mezcal is a much smaller category, but the Jabours report that it’s experienced steady growth over the past several years. On the wine side, rosé sales continue to climb, keeping pace with national trends but perhaps performing even stronger in states like Texas, which boast warm climates year-round. Despite these key staples, product selection is always slightly adjusted from store to store to best meet the needs of each location’s unique community. The Jabours are also extremely committed to offering customers high-quality products at a good value.
Twin Liquors stores vary in size and generally fall into one of two categories: the smaller 4,000- and 6,000-square-foot stores are known as neighborhood models, and the larger, 15,000-square-foot stores, known as the company’s marketplace stores, are equipped with full tasting bars and classrooms in order to provide the most comprehensive educational opportunities possible for customers. The store aesthetics are also extremely unique in that the Jabours took exceptional care in building an environment that fosters a positive shopping experience for customers.
“We realize that we need to make the stores warm, welcoming places where people want to spend time and can enjoy the shopping experience,” Margaret explains. “Twin Liquors stores all have a department-store feel to them. If you walk into Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, you’ll instantly notice a welcoming ambiance with a focus on the merchandise. Lighting, music and low-profile shelving create a pleasant mood and give the consumer easy access to browse whatever product they want. It’s inviting and it’s attractive, and it was extremely unique when we introduced the changes back at a time when this was still such a male-dominated industry and we began to understand the need to cater to our large number of female consumers who often do a lot of the shopping.”
Stores also bring education to the forefront of design and consumer value. At all locations, various drink recipes are on display throughout stores to inspire customers and also educate them on which products they need for a particular cocktail. In-store tastings are frequently held at all store locations, and marketplace stores feature daily tastings.
Twin Liquors regularly offers consumer classes hosted by master distillers and winemakers. Rotating Wine 101 and Spirit 101 classes are aligned with the stores’ monthly product promotions. Additional themed events, such as Washington Wine Month and Italian Wine Month, allow customers to learn more about different product lines while also letting the stores to promote different subsets of products.
Employee education is another priority for the Jabours. All employees are eligible to take Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification courses sponsored by the company, which are available in-house. Twin Liquors currently has Level 3 certified instructors who facilitate the teaching. This has resulted in almost 100 employees being Level 2 certified.
Margaret says that the family makes a point of hiring individuals who share the Jabour’s passion for the industry, and that by offering opportunities for employee education and growth, Twin Liquors maintains a high staff retention rate.
“We don’t consider people to be our employees. They’re part of our team, and we’re all on the same team,” she says. “We treat everyone on our team as family, whether we’re blood relatives or not. That results in longevity.”
Twin Liquors is also known for offering unique and valuable promotions to customers. Popular “Twin Deal” promotions feature top national brands and offer a discount when customers purchase two of the same identical products. Twice annually, the stores run a three-day dollar sale where all wines and spirits are sold at one dollar above cost. Hugely popular with customers, the event also maximizes the opportunity for consumers to try new products that they may not have otherwise selected before. Occasionally the marketplace stores host celebrity bottle signings, featuring stars such as Danny DeVito and Dan Aykroyd, which have helped draw hundreds of customers. The company also partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue for many years, hosting pourings during special events at the department store’s former Austin location.
Communication is Key
In addition to in-store promotions, Twin Liquors engages its consumers through external methods. Last year, the company launched its first mobile app, which allows customers to place orders via their smartphones for delivery or in-store pick-up.
“It gives our customers a different way to shop, for those people who are interested in it,” Michael explains. “The app will never replace our brick and mortar stores, but it gives customers another option to choose from.”
Twin Liquors also engages customers through its social media presence, particularly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“We’re always experimenting,” Michael says. “We like to incorporate lifestyle brands across our social channels, taking the fear factor out of the wine and spirit industry for our customers. Many people can easily feel overwhelmed when they come into a liquor store, so we give our customers an opportunity to educate themselves through our social media presence.”
Recently, Twin Liquors’ marketing department has used its social media channels to connect with select influencers who can share information about the brand with people who are in the process of relocating to Texas.
“We want to make sure we’re welcoming new residents and letting them know about us, and making sure they know that we’re a family business,” David says. “Many customers often assume that we’re a franchise, but the fact that we’re family-owned and -operated and have been for so many years makes us incredibly unique. We’ve also been part of the growth of Austin since the beginning. We’re an Austin family.”
Along with social media, Twin Liquors also incorporates digital and print tactics into the marketing mix. Television commercials are generally run around the holidays, and local newspaper and magazine ads highlight specific stores in their respective communities.
Community engagement is another area in which Twin Liquors shines. The company engages with more than 500 events each year in the form of sponsoring non-profit events and making donations to various charitable groups. Twin Liquors supports organizations like the nationally recognized American Heart Association and American Cancer Society by supporting their galas, like Heart Ball Austin and Dallas and Cattle Baron’s Ball San Antonio.
The company also offers support to organizations such as the Austin Food and Wine Alliance, Austin Opera, the Paramount Theater, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and many more. The Jabours and their employees engage with charitable organizations in many ways, including sitting on boards and committees to contribute to these events with more than just a donation – they offer their advice and expertise to help make events successful. Community work is important to the Jabours and the entire Twin Liquors team because they live and work in the surrounding community and are dedicated to helping it thrive.
Planning for the Future
Ultimately, the Jabours hope that future family generations will take over the business that’s been part of their legacy for the past 83 years. Michael is the first member of the fourth generation of Jabours to work for Twin Liquors. Combined, David and Margaret have a total of five children, although not all of them have chosen to get directly involved with the family business – at least not yet.
“There’s no obligation, but hopefully some or all of our kids will be involved in moving the business forward,” Margaret says. “David and I both have the same passion for the business that we had way back when we opened our second store. We’re excited to continue sharing our products and knowledge with our customers.”
David agrees. “The magic of the family business is that you get the privilege of our time together,” he says. “We got to enjoy that with our dad growing up, and it’s still the same now. We’ve continued building upon what our parents instilled in us, and when you have great values, it’s pretty easy to do.”
Melissa Sherwin is a freelance writer and marketing communications strategist from Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in Chicago’s Daily Herald newspaper, Time Out Chicago, Suburban Life newspapers, and various magazines. She is also the author of several children’s books. Follow her @MelissaNSherwin.