NA transition to liquor sales going smoothly

Barely nine months in, New Albany seems to have made the transition from dry to wet smoothly.

The city’s two wine and spirits stores have been open nearly eight months and report growing acceptance – and increasing sales.

“We even have a few pastors, and some law enforcement, who come in occasionally and get a bottle of wine or something,” Logan Golebieweski, an employee at the The Loft Wine and Spirits, said. “Although they don’t come in in uniform of course,” he added.

When The Loft opened, its inventory was based a lot on a Saltillo store while Bill Smith at New Albany Wine and Liquor said theirs was more along the lines of an Oxford store. So far, New Albany’s tastes have not been the same as either. “Of course you could put a store right across the street and what people want there would be different,” Golebieweski said.

Both stores do have a large wine inventory and that seems to be paying off.

“We have a lot of people buying wine by the case,” Smith said. “And some of it is expensive.”

Golebieweski, who reiterated he was not speaking for the owners, said wine sales at their store started slowly but them picked up. “We are gaining a lot of regulars who are buying more expensive wine and the less expensive wine sales are decreasing,” he said.

Both stores also see a lot of sales to out-of-county residents.

“We do,” Smith said, “but a little less now since Tippah County became wet.” They have three retail stores in Ripley, he added.

“We see a lot from Pontotoc and from Tippah County,” Golebieweski said. “That’s partly because people from Tippah County may not want to be seen buying liquor there and partly because a lot of people from there work here and it’s just more convenient.”

“Some people still don’t want to be seen here, but it’s growing less,” Smith said. People are adjusting to having the stores here and there has been no trouble connected with them.

“It’s not such a big deal anymore,” Golebieweski said.

It’s difficult to separate ABC sales dollars out of overall revenue for a city but the Department of Revenue’s last annual report cited $102,948 in total sales and collections for New Albany for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. That’s really for less than a month of operation after sales became legal.

Smith pointed out that because of the high start-up cost stores are just getting to the point of adding more to city revenue. Stores have to buy their supplies from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which marks up prices 26 percent before selling the wine or liquor to local retailers.

Golebieweski said one problem they run into is the state’s warehouse being out of stock. “That makes it hard,” he said, although extra holiday demand may have played a role.

Smith said sales of wine and spirits did rise a lot during the holidays. “The day before Thanksgiving and Christmas were unbelievable,” he said.

Sales seem to be increasing for both stores.

“Our inventory is about three times what it was when we started,” Smith said, and he has no problem selling out of $200 bottles of scotch.

Golebieweski said they are seeing more bulk and case sales. “We have a large liquor store for Mississippi but it is only a fraction of how large it could be” he said. “The last place I worked business was not nearly this good.”

More widespread advertising may be shaping people’s tastes as well. The Loft is seeing a greater demand for Yellowtail wine, for instance. New Albany Wine and Spirits is getting requests for the brand of moonshine features on the cable TV reality show (that brand has not been approved for sale in Mississippi yet, but Smith said they do have six different brands of moonshine, several in multiple flavors).

So how settled in are the stores? “About 95 percent of our customers are regulars,” Golebieweski said.