Wednesday, March 12, 2014
|Over 40,000||Over 10,000|
FREEPORT — Bow Street Market prides itself on its variety, selling liquors ranging from Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy to the rare $2,000 bottle of Louis VIII cognac to the products of local distillers such as Cold River and Sweetgrass Farms.
Bow Street Market in Freeport stocks a large and diverse selection of spirits, beer and wine. It’s the top alcohol-selling store in Maine.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
This variety has helped Bow Street, nestled in a barn-shaped building in Freeport, become an unassuming giant in the state liquor industry. The 15,000-square-foot store is the largest seller of liquor in Maine, moving 53,559 cases last year. Hannaford Bros. and Shaw's supermarket chains sell more liquor throughout all their locations, but Bow Street has the highest volume for an individual site, according to state records.
The next largest competitor, RSVP in Portland, sold 41,382 cases last year. RSVP did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
Bow Street is almost shy about the success of its liquor operations, and likes to emphasize its butcher shop that features local products, organic fruits and vegetables and the neighborhood flavor of its intimate store.
Yet despite the low profile the market likes to cultivate, it plans to make its voice heard loudly this year through its trade group – the Maine Grocers Association – about the upcoming solicitation of bids for a new state liquor contract.
Retailers like Bow Street want whoever gets the exclusive right to wholesale alcohol to be a good partner – and to do something about the wide gap between Maine and New Hampshire liquor prices. The gap undermines the profitability and sales of alcohol in Maine.
Bow Street owner Adam Nappi said his store's small-town flavor is an antidote to the impersonal, distant interactions that can characterize modern life.
"In the world of Facebook and social media, we have lost some of that feeling of having a place for neighbors to interact – to have a neighborhood meeting spot," he said. "This allows a chance to get some of that back."
Kam Anderson, a customer for 17 years, appreciates that. "It's local," he said. "It's community. It's small and cozy."
Josh Rice of Durham said Bow Street is just small enough to be manageable and lend a neighborhood feel.
"There are things closer, but this place has an amazing meat section that you just can't compare. And the fresh produce is a draw," said Rice. "They also have the best liquor selection I've seen anywhere around. There's Bootleggers in Brunswick. But they have things here that you can't get anywhere else – like applejack whiskey, which is really smooth and really good in hot apple cider."
Although Bow Street does sell Maine's perennial best-selling liquor, Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy (a 1.75-liter bottle goes for $19.99), it's not the store's top item. A pricier, 1-liter bottle of Grey Goose Vodka for $35.99 is Bow Street's best-seller, followed by the dark liquors and the gins, said Paula Truman, Bow Street's wine and spirits manager.
Bow Street, a second-generation family-owned business, is more than a traditional retailer. It's also a reseller that provides liquor to hundreds of bars and restaurants throughout Maine, running from Kittery to Bangor, and as far west as Bethel and east to Rockland. Its biggest concentration of customers is in Portland, Nappi said.
Bow Street declined to disclose its liquor revenues, but said the majority of its spirits sales come from bar and restaurant accounts.
Like all Maine retailers and resellers, Bow Street gets its liquor at prices set by the state. Since it can't adjust pricing to attract customers, it has to be creative in offering unique products to draw customer traffic.
It has created a Maine-made spirits section, as well as a climate-controlled wine cellar, and features a broad assortment of liquors extending across all price ranges.
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