What started out as a part-time job has turned out to be a gratifying profession for Local Boys Liquor Store manager Eric Davis. The last week in June marks his 21st year in the retail beverage profession.
He began this long journey in 1997 at the Circle Liquor Store that used to sit where the CVS pharmacy is at Beverly Drive and Seymour Highway. Eric described that store as more of a bank disguised as a liquor store, not only selling beverages but also offering check cashing services that moved about a million dollars a month.
In August of 2004 he started working at Local Boys under the second of the store’s four owners, the most recent of which is Sean Carroll who purchased it about four years ago. Eric manages the store, purchasing, and wholesale. And of course, customer service. “My job is to try and predict what people are going to buy over the next pay period. I invest our money into buying product at the best price going into the next month or two. I don’t want to buy something at a bad price and have our customers complain, so when I see a good deal I jump on it and pass the savings on to them. Personally, I try to help our customers manage their spending on items so instead of making a one-time sale I make a customer for life.
“And we try to be on top of what’s popular at the moment. If we see a product that’s heavily promoted we try to get it in as soon as possible.”
I asked him how many items they sold here and he said, “The last time I looked at our item count list there’s over 7000 Liquors, beers, wines, etc., of which about 5500 are active. When I started (in this business) there was scotch, whiskey, vodka– the basics. Now there’s every flavor of vodka, rum, even whiskeys that you can think of. Just about everything now has America’s favorite ingredient in it—sugar. The sweeter things are the more popular they are. It is a broader appeal to people. They used to have to buy the liquor and add the mixers to it, but now a lot of things are being infused and the mixers are in the drink.”
Eric also points out that he sells a lot of locally produced whiskeys and wines from around Henrietta, St Jo, and others. “It’s really big that people have something local to grab on to,” he says.
I couldn’t conduct this interview without bringing up the super-mega-liquor store that opened up down the street. Eric said that when they opened up about a year ago that he saw a drop of about 30% in business. “But,” he says, “slowly our normal customers have come back. There’s a lot of small-town loyalty here. People like spending their money locally. A lot of restaurants and bars are locally owned and we cater to about 75% of the wholesale market in town, which is a big driver. They are familiar with me and I’m familiar with them which makes a good working relationship. We don’t make a lot of money on wholesale, but it helps our buying power. Buying in quantity keeps the price low on our floor items, and we pass the discounts on to our customers.”
And while Eric is the leading authority in the liquors and wines, Sean is the expert in the import and craft beers, and cigars. Local Boys has one of only a few walk-in humidors in town, offering around 100 different cigars. One of their cigar distributors says that Local Boys sell more of some types of his cigars than most smoke shops do.
And when it comes to craft beers Eric says, “Craft beer drinkers want something different every time they come in so you have to have a large selection. They want to try the newest and best things. Social media drives everything these days. People see posts on Pinterest or Instagram and hit us up for it. Sometimes it is difficult to get it in stock because of the demand. But we do a lot of updates on our Facebook page on new items and special deals to help customers that may not always come into our store but do pay attention to that.”
Even after 21 years in the business Eric still loves what he does. “It’s fun. I know I will never have to work on Sundays, and if I ever take my work home with me it’s a six-pack. The customers are great. We know them and they know us. We will share pictures of our kids and families. We have a great repertoire with them. It’s a nice small-town thing. We look out for them and they look out for us, and we appreciate them very much!”
That’s what I would call a local boy spirit.