Sunday, April 20, 2014
|Over 40,000||Over 10,000|
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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
"It's more convenient to go to Shaw's or Hannaford, but here it's a little more curated. They know more about what they're recommending," said Keith Tiszenkel of Freeport. "You feel a little overwhelmed in a big-box store. This is a more gourmet experience."
The liquor itself comes through Maine Beverage Co., the company that won a 10-year contract in 2004 to run the state liquor business. Pine State Trading Co. handles the distribution, with all the liquor in the state funneling through a warehouse in Augusta. So, even if Bow Street wants to buy a Cold River Vodka from Maine Distilleries in Freeport or New England Distilling's Eight Bells Rum in Portland, the bottles first go to Augusta before hitting Bow Street's shelves in Freeport.
Since bars and restaurants pay the same price for liquor as consumers do when they buy their supplies, Bow Street has to offer more to make itself unique to its corporate customers.
"We're on the quest for differentiation," Nappi said. "We can't compete on price, so we have to bring different things to the table."
Bow Street does more than merely resell the liquor to bars and restaurants – it also can handle the administration of their liquor management systems for no fee. It essentially takes the burden of ordering and managing the liquor stock off clients – which gives the clients some savings and fewer headaches – to ensure it has a steady stream of loyal customers.
Once restaurants and bars get used to having Bow Street manage their liquor ordering and processing, they are less likely to jump to another reseller. Bow Street also works hard to keep costs as low as possible for corporate customers.
"We have to reduce costs – different packaging sizes, different product mix, different brands in the well," said Dean Nowell, Bow Street's operations manager.
For its retail customers, Bow Street store is known for being able to cater to milestone moments in life, like a special anniversary or 50th birthday or a huge win at work, Nappi said. The store once had a special order for a $2,000 bottle of Louis VIII cognac. It was able to get the bottle for the customer the next day.
"For the most part this is a commodity business. We differentiate ourselves by being locally owned, made from scratch, fresh, and the money stays in Maine," Nowell said.
"What is going to make us unique? Wine and spirits. We're very very proud of it," Nappi said.
In the store's climate-controlled wine cellar, the best sellers are $24.99 to $42.99 bottles of wine, said Truman.
"There are $400 bottles or $15 bottles that would knock your socks off," said Truman.
Statewide, liquor sales in Maine spike during the August summer tourism surge and around the holidays in December and Bow Street sees similar trends at its store. Bow Street said it benefits from tourism traffic in Freeport and word-of-mouth recommendations from customers drawn to its local products.
"We want to capitalize on the trend of more local offerings. Customers recognize the benefits of local – the money stays in the state, supports local jobs and shows some pride in Maine," said operations manager Nowell. "It's an expansion of our thinking away from a commodity base."
Bow Street said it also benefits when customers learn more about liquor and develop a more discerning palate – and perhaps spend a little more money on specialty products. The market has worked with restaurants, such as King Eider's Pub in Damariscotta, to hold whiskey tastings as a way to branch out in the community, educate customers and have some fun.
"One fun part was that it was a lot of women – and you don't necessarily think of women as whiskey drinkers. But they wanted to know all about it, what made each one different or better than the other," said Truman. "Men tend to be loyal to one brand, but the women were there to learn and try something new. It's events like these that can help differentiate ourselves."
Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:
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