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This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with Jonathan Blue. For those of you who don’t know: Jonathan’s investment firm, Blue Equity, had already owned Party Mart and now recently acquired Liquor Barn with partners from Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd., a publicly traded company from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Talking about keeping Kentucky bourbon in Kentucky: That sure is one heck of a way to do it!
During our time together, we spoke of many things, but what struck my interest was how he plans to change the game, in regards to how allocated bourbons hit his store shelves. Jonathan seems to believe very firmly in customer loyalty, which is something I have preached for years. I have always felt customers should be rewarded for repeat business, and this is exactly what we should see very soon from Liquor Barn. Party Mart has been doing this in a similar fashion for a long time, which is why they have been my store of choice. These two stores will now operate as separate brands, but essentially, the same company.
Between the 15 Liquor Barn and 2 Party Mart locations, Jonathan’s stores have gotten and undoubtedly will continue to get the most significant BTAC and Pappy Van Winkle allocation in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and most likely, throughout the world. Jonathan has big plans for these high-volume allocations. He has thought about staggering these releases throughout the entire year. In theory, with Jonathan’s program, one could buy the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or the Van Winkle line all year round. Wonderful, I know; perhaps, I’ll drink to that! But, in all reality, this is exactly what he would like to see. No more waiting in line all night long or at the crack of dawn. Through one proposed method, repeat customers may walk in one day and leave feeling like it is Christmas morning. Although, as we all know, you can never make everyone happy. But, this will undoubtedly cut down on “Flipper Joe’s” chances of getting the bottle you wanted, just to sell it on the “grey” or “secondary” market. This will, without a doubt, change the game!
At this point, Kentucky law forbids loyalty cards at liquor stores; although, Jonathan is optimistic that this may change soon. Until then, relationships are key! With that said, it would be wise to start shopping and getting to know his staff: I have yet to meet a staff member I did not like. They are all very knowledgeable and will help you find something you will enjoy no matter the time of year. No matter your location, I hope this advice will serve you well. Many establishments are moving toward loyalty programs and others only share with whom they know. Regardless of the method your local store uses, it always helps to be known. Don’t be the person the store has never seen and ask for Pappy: In this day in age, they may laugh you out of the store.