Peter Cook, managing partner of Liquor Store #705, is a man who wants to be involved with his community — evidenced by the long list of boards, charities and events he and his wife, Jacque, have tended to during their 25 years in Jackson Hole, WY. Cook sums up the experience with a catch phrase that he applies to his life and his store, “It’s all about caring about people.”
Peter Cook, managing partner of Liquor Store #705, stands in front of the store’s burgeoning wine section with daughter, Cori (left), and wife Jacque (right).
And this is evident in how he treats the people who work in his store and the customers who walk through his doors. To Cook, the store serves as a mini-community, a place to meet people, where his employees and customers learn about everything the store can offer. “I hope they feel like they’ve taken something with them when they leave,” he added.
He also takes pride in hiring employees that can enjoy their job and can be equally cordial with the customers. Cook seeks out a staff that has personality and can let it show while they work. And, the main premise of employee training, is that they need to have fun on the job.
Part of the fun is learning about the different wines and spirits on the market, which is done at staff lunches or dinners. Employees critique the wines in notebooks divided by varietal, and next to each wine, employees record general comments and individual remarks. “It’s a good education tool for training staff,” Cook commented, “and, as a result, we have a real knowledgeable personnel.” Cook also conducts in-store tastings for employees and the public. They have hosted blind vodka tastings, and tastings of tequila, Irish creams, micro-brews, champagne and wine, among others.
Store #705 carries as many spirits as “the state does, plus special orders,” 900 wines and approximately 350 types of beer, numbers that grow as each year passes. By volume, the best sellers are Jack Daniel’s, Absolut and other various upscale vodkas and tequilas, a departure from the state’s leading brands listed in the Adams 1998 Control States Directory. In other parts of the state, people in Wyoming are scanning the shelves for Lord Calvert, Black Velvet and Potter’s vodka. This divergence can be attributed to the 3.5 million tourists that annually travel through Jackson Hole on their way to the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone National Park. To keep these visitors, as well as full-time residents, satisfied, the store stocks the high-end luxury spirits the state brings in, such as single malt Scotches, cognacs and armagnacs.
A varied selection of imported wine, micro-brews and beer make up a large part of the store’s ever-expanding inventory. Cook noted that Spanish wines, Chilean and other South American wines have been a favorite with the customers, along with French imports, which over the past six or seven years have seen a resurgence among his clientele.
Large national beer brands do well, just as the bigger name wine brands do. Customers also prefer the micro-brews, especially the ones brewed at Jackson Hole’s Snake River Brewing Co. and at Otto Brothers.
Selection and display are part of what makes Store #705 such a favorite with tourists and full-time residents. Here, several French wines are grouped together on an endcap and others are prominently displayed in individual bottle holders.
Spirits, beer and wine are situated in separate, but not isolated, parts of the store. Spirits occupy the shelves around the store’s perimeter. White and brown spirits are mixed and, to entice the customers who want to buy high-end products, the more expensive premium brands are kept near eye level. A 15-door beer cooler holds the store’s extensive micro-brew selection and imported beers. The premium beers, such as Budweiser and Miller, and wines, are kept in aisles in the middle of the store. Endcaps are usually reserved for additional wines, which are organized by varietal.
For merchandising, Cook relies on materials from suppliers on his endcaps and in case displays. Cross-merchandising efforts include lining the top of the store’s humidor with single malt Scotches. “What really works, though, is keeping a fresh, clean store and people that are informative,” Cook said. “We’re not a hard-sell store at all; we just try to give the customer what they like to have.”
In fact, they are so intent on customer service that the store will be moving next to one of the most highly trafficked grocery stores in the town. The move will increase the store’s size by 30% and will allow more room for tastings and the store’s delivery service. Once the store moves, Cook plans to expand his delivery service with a focus on gift baskets. “If we have an area to merchandise them, we’ll do anything,” he explained. He said a celebrity (who Cook would not name) once ordered a basket with three bottles of Cuervo 1800, salsa, chips, limes and shot glasses. “That was the whole Mexican Margarita party right there,” he said. So following the same idea, the new store will increase production of custom and theme baskets, including baskets with products from the nearby micro-breweries, baskets with single malt Scotches and cigars, and so forth. “Our store has always been a trend-setter,” he said of his gift basket concept.
He attributes most of the trend-setting to his affiliation with the National Association of Beverage Retailers and the Wine & Spirits Guild of America. Several Guild members visited his store last summer, and he found them to be a close-knit, serious group with a wealth of knowledge about the beverage alcohol industry. And then, he was chosen to be a member. “I am very new with the group,” Cook said, “but they make you feel like they want to answer any questions you have.”
Cook carries similar feelings when it comes to working under the Liquor Division of the Wyoming Department of Revenue and is not in favor of privatization, an issue that arises in all the control states. “If we were privatized, we would not have the kind of service or selection that we have. And the volume would not be as great if there were only three or four distributors,” he said. “The state is very responsive and listens to what the customers want.”