Woodmen Wine & Liquor happy with larger location

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The front door opens at Woodmen Wine & Liquor Company, and owner Dee Jones sees three of her regular customers. “Hola!” she says, waving to the familiar Spanish-speaking tradesmen who are stopping by on their way home from a job. At the same time, one of Jones’ wine suppliers is packing up, orders in hand, and another frequent customer is asking about a Chardonnay for tonight’s dinner.

Life is rarely dull for the owner of the two-month-old, 12,000-square-foot retail facility located on the city’s fast-growing northeast side. Originally, the store opened adjacent to the booming Kings Soopers in the same shopping center. Both a blessing and a curse, the store’s original site in the in-line shopping center was short-lived. “We had great traffic from the grocery shoppers next door, but we never really had enough room for inventory – and parking during peak hours was a problem,” the owner said.

Within a year, Jones and her husband had contacted the landlord’s representative, Regency Realty through Palmer-McAllister broker, Mark Useman, to investigate a 2-acre pad site that was originally zoned for a gas station. “When Kings Soopers decided not to develop the gas station,” Jones said, “we presented a proposal to purchase the land.” The decision, she says, has already paid high dividends, bumping revenues in the first two months by more than 20 percent while overhead costs remain close to the same.

Stepping into the crisply-organized grocery store-styled retail floor with its clean signage, the eye is drawn to the huge cooler at the back of the store – with its twenty different glass doors and pallets of chilled beers, wines, sodas and mixes. In anticipation of the store’s move to a new location, Jones discovered that another large liquor retailer was closing its doors last year. She immediately bought the cooler. “We thought we had more than enough room, but we’re already adding shelves to accommodate even more product,” she said. The owner also has installed an extra-wide delivery door for distributors bringing in cases of beer and wine – an option not available in her previous location.

She also added a used “baler” that crushes cardboard boxes and compresses them into neatly wired bales for recycling. “We love this machine,” she says, “but we’ll always save boxes for our customers when they ask.”

As far as the store’s brisk sales and revenues, Jones says that her location, along with nearby booming growth, has spawned a very successful first three years. “Our location really is one of the keys to our success,” she says, noting that Woodmen Wines & Liquor clients come from Black Forest, Peyton, Falcon and all along Woodmen Road, “and in spite of some parking challenges, it was great to be next to one of Colorado Springs’ busiest Kings Soopers.”

Jones and her husband, Gene, have thrived in the wine and spirits business since the mid-1980s when the two moved from Nebraska. Prior to the move, Dee had been working as a school teacher so when Gene opened Colorado Wine and Liquor in the Union Square Shopping Center, Dee continued to substitute teach. “I really enjoyed the kids and education,” she says. Hardly the stereotypical liquor store owner, Jones brings her background as a wife, mother and teacher to the job – often inquiring how her customers are doing or investigating community programs to help her non-English speaking clients – including classes for children offered at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind and adult classes at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. “I love getting to know my customers,” she says.

Jones admits that she has not yet begun creating a database of her customers, although the store does invite shoppers to enter their names and phone numbers when they request a special order. “That has really proven to be a valuable way to find out what to order,” Jones said. “Our customers really use the book and let us know what new products they want.”

Those new products may be seasonal, such as lighter summer favorites, including flavored wine coolers or specialty beverages such as Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Silver or Captain Morgan Gold. She has also seen increased requests for a greater selection of imported wines. As a result, Jones has almost doubled her stock of New Zealand and Australian wines, for example, based on increased customer demand. And winter typically creates demand for deeper red wines such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot – along with liqueurs used in coffee and hot chocolate.

The liquor retail business is closely regulated by local and state ordinances and laws. Fortunately for Jones, when she applied for her liquor license in 1998, her service area had been underserved and was ready for the addition of a liquor outlet. The transfer of the original in-line license was also a fairly cut and dried process when the new store opened. “We really see our store as more than a neighborhood liquor store – primarily because it lies on a major arterial – Woodmen Rd.,” she points out. “Our volume should qualify us as one of Colorado Springs’ larger dealers.”

So far, zip codes 80918, 80920 and 80921 generate the store’s greatest number of transactions. Small print advertising in the “Slice” issue of the daily newspaper as well as occasional radio spots augment Woodmen Wines & Liquor’s marketing plan.

Jones, who works a regular schedule each day, is already planning for expanded business. Bartlett Business Systems, the store’s cash register vendor, will likely add another two registers before year-end, and new products are constantly being introduced to the store’s shelves. The wine area is already greatly-expanded from its space in the previous location, and specialty items such as cocktail parasols, logo’d zipper-cooler bags for beer, martini shakers, garnishes such as stuffed olives and cherries are sprinkled liberally on shelf displays and at the check-out counter. “We are restricted by law from selling food items,” Jones said, although customers often wish they could grab a bag of chips or pizza to go with their beer or wine. “That is out of our hands.”

“My dad was a rancher in business for himself. I grew up understanding the risks you take in business, and I enjoy bringing all the pieces together,” Jones says. “The best part of running a liquor store, for me, though, will always be the people I meet. Everyday is varied and stimulating. I guess that’s why I like what I do so much.”