Macadoodles has emerged as a trailblazer in the retail beverage industry.
With two corporate stores and 10 franchise locations (and more on the way), this Missouri-based chain is known for its exceptional commitment to customer service and unwavering dedication to providing an unmatched shopping experience. With origins rooted in the visionary teachings of retail pioneer Sam Walton, Macadoodles has built a thriving empire under the astute leadership of founder Roger Gildehaus, who draws upon his extensive Walmart background to redefine the standards of excellence in the liquor retailing landscape.
Beverage Dynamics has recognized Macadoodles as the 2023 Top 100 Retailer of the Year.
Customer-centered Retail Force
The adage “the customer is the boss” resonated strongly within the philosophy of renowned entrepreneur Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club. Walton’s commitment to prioritizing customers influenced those who worked for him, including Gildehaus, who spent 26 years at Walmart climbing the corporate ladder, ultimately becoming Walmart’s Vice President of General Merchandising, International.
“During those last four and a half years, I spent much of my time traveling to different international locations, and it got to the point where I was out of the country more than I was in the country,” Gildehaus recalls. “I wanted to spend more time with my wife and daughters, which is why I ultimately came up with this retirement plan: to open my own liquor store using the business principles I inherited from Sam Walton.”
Starting a store was an idea Gildehaus had pondered for some time. He would often cross the Arkansas state line into Missouri to purchase liquor after leaving work, where he observed the proximity-driven success of liquor stores that nevertheless suffered from subpar aesthetics and poor customer service. Gildehaus was determined to provide customers with a positive shopping experience.
He established three guiding principles for his business: exceed customer expectations by providing exceptional service; offer the best possible selection of wine, beer and spirits; and maintain highly competitive prices.
These principles became the foundation of the Macadoodles brand. As the business expanded, they remained integral to its success.
In 1997, Gildehaus opened the first Macadoodles location in Pineville, MO. A year later, he retired from Walmart so he could focus solely on his new business. He now owns two corporate Macadoodles stores, and in 2009, at the urging of multiple vendors who were eager for an expansion of the business, the first franchise location opened.
A unique business model in the retail beverage industry, franchising allowed Gildehaus to expand the Macadoodles brand without requiring him to constantly be on the road traveling to different locations. This allowed him to enjoy a good work-life balance.
With a total of 10 franchise stores now located in Arkansas and Missouri, Gildehaus says the business is just getting started. Two additional franchise stores are scheduled to open later this year in Oklahoma and Nebraska. Discussions are also underway about possibly adding additional franchise locations in Missouri and expanding into Texas.
“The franchise part of the business has worked out even better than I ever thought possible, and it just keeps growing,” Gildehaus says. “I think we’ll open up at least six or eight new stores in the next two years, if not more. There’s huge interest in the Macadoodle brand.”
Gildehaus has never had to seek out new potential franchisers: People constantly approach him to inquire about the opportunity. The high level of interest eventually led to the creation of a new position at Macadoodles, Vice President of Franchise Operations and Franchise Business, a role held by Tony Corbett since 2020.
Corbett primarily focuses on franchise business development. He works closely with Gildehaus on the process of setting up new franchise stores, and providing launch support and ongoing guidance for franchisees.
“We grow our franchise relationships from the ground up,” Corbett says. “It’s a very lengthy process and takes a lot of time. We often begin looking at new projects several years before the stores actually open. In addition to expanding our territory, we have also created different models to better serve the needs of our franchisees.”
Along with the traditional, stand-alone Macadoodles stores that are custom built, the company recently introduced a new retro-fit option. This gives franchisees the option of opening a store within an existing building structure, allowing for additional flexibility.
All franchise stores receive a great deal of support from corporate leadership. During the first year a franchise store is open, either Gildehaus, Corbett or someone else from the corporate leadership team works in the store three days per month. The second year of operations, it drops down to two days a month, then to one day per month during year three. After that, the corporate team visits each store on a quarterly basis, although they are always available to be on hand more regularly if needed. Macadoodles also ensures consistent customer service across locations by providing comprehensive training that emphasizes friendliness and helpfulness to all employees.
“All cashiers at all locations are trained to greet our customers as soon as they enter the store,” Gildehaus says. “If someone buys a lot of product, a sales associate will carry it out to the customer’s car for them. We make sure all these best practices for great customer service are being followed in all our stores, by all employees, every single day.”
Gildehaus’s wife, Sarah, also owns a liquor store in Bentonville, AR, called Guess Who?, which is managed by their daughter, Jenn Salisbury. Guess Who? is very similar to Macadoodles, but when Gildehaus initially sought a liquor permit in Bentonville, his application was rejected due to an Arkansas state law that only allows one permit per licensee. As Gildehaus already held the position of president of Gild Holdings, the corporation that owns Macadoodles, he encouraged his wife to apply for the permit instead, which she did Ñ and she is legally the sole owner and operator of Guess Who? (although Gildehaus says he regularly provides her with business advice). In addition to serving as the general manager of Guess Who?, Salisbury also oversees technical implementation and support across all Macadoodles stores.
“My dad always comes up with great new ideas, and he calls me up and says, ‘Jenn, I want to do this,’ and it’s my job to figure out how to help get it done,” Salisbury says. “Regardless of the project, everything always comes back to customer service. From day one, Dad wanted that good, old-fashioned customer experience for people, and to create a store environment where people are always available to help you with something. That’s why all of these stores continue to thrive.”
Reimagining the Shopping Experience
What is it that makes Macadoodles unique? Gildehaus attributes the company’s’ success to the valuable knowledge and skills he acquired during his tenure at Walmart. Additionally, he pays meticulous attention to detail, and constantly evaluates retail operations to identify opportunities for improvement.
All Macadoodles stores (both corporate and franchise) have a distinctive look and feel: rustic hardwood floors, inviting color schemes, custom music playlists and open layouts emphasizing functionality and easy access to products. Most Macadoodles stores are quite spacious (the average size is 10,000 square feet) to allow them to carry a large number of products. To help customers find products quickly, each general section (wine, spirits, etc.) is typically organized in sub-categories, such as by region.
Each Macadoodles store is similarly organized and products are rarely rearranged, as Gildehaus thinks customers prefer to have everything remain in the same place so they can easily find what they are looking for. Two of the newest franchise stores have adopted a slightly different layout that gives wine more visibility to customers as soon as they walk into the store, and Gildehaus is considering giving all future stores a similar layout.
Macadoodles also offers enticing programs and events to provide additional value to customers.
In 2021, the company developed a new loyalty program that leverages its point of sale (POS) system capabilities. Customers earn store credit on their purchases, and the program has several loyalty point levels. Integration with the POS links the loyalty program with overall customer engagement efforts, so customers can see detailed program information at various touch points. These include emails, across social media channels and on the Macadoodles website, which helps keep the loyalty program top of mind.
Since its launch, the loyalty program has attracted nearly 10,000 members at Macadoodles’ flagship location alone, a number that continues to grow daily.
Gildehaus stresses that the company is cognizant not to overwhelm customers with excessive volumes of emails or other targeted communications. “We don’t bomb people with emails,” he explains. “We only send people the kind of information we think they’ll want to know, and based on customer feedback, we’re doing a good job of that.’
Every Wednesday, customers can take advantage of 15% off all wine purchases as part of “Wine Down Wednesdays,” which have resulted in increased sales and heightened customer satisfaction. A new program titled “Macadouble Mondays” is currently being piloted at the company’s Pineville location. It allows loyalty club members to receive double the amount of reward points every Monday, which is traditionally the slowest sales day of the week for retailers across the industry.
Gildehaus also strongly focuses on technology and innovation, looking for new ways of enhancing the customer experience while also improving operational efficiencies.
A mobile app developed during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic is now in use at all store locations. The app allows customers to easily locate items, shop and arrange for delivery where permissible.
The Macadoodles website recently underwent a comprehensive overhaul in collaboration with GoDaddy, streamlining the process of making website updates and improving the customer user experience. Macadoodles also implemented GoDaddy’s SEO tools to achieve higher visibility in search engine results. The company has made significant strides in enhancing engagement on Facebook, resulting in an amplified distribution score for its posts, and attracting a larger following and customer base.
It is important for Gildehaus to stay on top of industry trends to make sure Macadoodles is providing access to the products customers want most. Ready-to-drink cocktails are surging in popularity, so much so that both corporate stores were slightly reconfigured to allow for category expansion. Customers are also showing a high level of interest in the company’s directly sourced wines, a program that Gildehaus has steadily grown to give people access to products that are unavailable elsewhere. These wines, along with many other products, are regularly featured at Macadoodles’ tasting events, which are held at store tasting bars and are also offered as sit-down tastings.
Macadoodles is actively involved in community engagement and philanthropic activities. Some of the many organizations the company partners with and supports include Lifeline of Northwest Arkansas, Sunshine School & Development Center Agency, Wounded Warriors and a number of golf tournament fundraisers.
Looking to the Future
Slow and steady growth is what the future holds for Macadoodles. Gildehaus remains focused on building the company brand and identifying new franchise opportunities. He is always thinking about what can be done to make the company even better.
“One of the key things I learned from working for Sam Walton is that if you’re not constantly growing and improving, you’re not going to provide the best experience for your customers,” Gildehaus says. “At Macadoodles, we are constantly thinking about how to improve the shopping experience and how to draw more customers into our stores. What else can we do to make things better for them?”
On any given day, Gildehaus can likely be found on the sales floor at a Macadoodles location, which is where he most enjoys being. He likes interacting with customers and says that talking with them is the best way to learn about their experiences and identify opportunities for improvement He also enjoys working with his leadership team, which continues expanding along with the business.
“I’m fortunate to have a lot of good people on my management team, and my job is to oversee and support them,” Gildehaus says. “If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers. Macadoodles wouldn’t be the success that it is without the commitment and hard work of every person who works for the company, and for that I am very grateful.”
If Gildehaus’s track record is any indication, Macadoodles is indeed only just getting started Ñ and the best is likely yet to come. BD
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. Read her piece, How Southern Glazer’s Grew Through Digital Technology.