Wise Guys Discount Liquors is known for their enthusiasm and willingness to do what nobody else is doing – qualities that will carry through to their newest store, and that have won them awards in local consumer voting contests for seven years in a row.
“They’re unique stores to shop in for the customer,” said Brett Gargano, Vice President of Finance and Retail Operations for Wise Guys Discount Liquors. “Every couple of weeks, the store has a new face. It’s ever-changing, it’s creative, and it’s inviting. I think it draws our customers in and creates a bond. It’s Rick’s creativity of that freelance merchandising that I think makes the difference.”
Gargano said that because their liquor stores are larger than most, they have the opportunity to get creative. They set up displays and hang things from ceilings, which he believes allows the products to speak to the customers. It makes for a fun experience for staff members and customers alike.
“We have customers come into the Hobart store and go, ‘Wow.’ It’s like they’re in awe,” General Manager Rick Green said. “It’s like a kid going into a candy store. We do things that nobody does. We have samplings, Wise Guys University, and we do events.”
While the strong presentation of products in their stores is immediately evident, another strength they attribute to their success is not as apparent. Gargano and Green believe that the knowledge base of their staff and customers is a viable part of their business.
Wise Guys works hard to make sure that their employees are educated in different liquors, especially wine, so that they can better help customers. Gargano said that while the people they hire typically know a thing or two about beers and spirits, they often know little about wine. Green, also known as ‘Rick the Wine Guy,’ is able to educate the staff.
“Our staff has the opportunity to rub shoulders with Rick on a regular basis,” Gargano said. “Even our regular frontline staff is really starting to develop more understanding of wine. That helps you help the customer.”
“In general, we’ll have our new employees in each section of the store. The store is pretty much sectioned off by category. A new employee gets exposed to the wine category, the spirit category, and the beer category as the main three categories.”
Green noted that wine can be tricky, especially when it comes to getting familiar with wines from different countries and regions like Italy and France. Green spends time with associates to let them know how to find wines from these different areas, sometimes even offering classes for new associates.
“We do have a lot of shoppers who go to Italy,” Green said, adding that after their travels, shoppers often come into the store looking for wines they discovered in a particular region of the wine-rich country. The staff at Wise Guys can tell them exactly what to browse at the store. “They’re very happy about that,” he said.
Educating their staff about wines and other drinks allows them to locate the right drink for customers, and it also allows them to educate buyers.
“To be able to break it down so that the consumer can understand it is really the key for us,” Green said. “In the wine category, you could be getting a $30-$35 bottle. We want to make sure that you’re getting what you think you’re getting.”
These successes fuel Wise Guys to continue pushing forward, a drive that led them to the opening of their new Valparaiso store in early August.
“This store is going to have the nicest wine offering in terms of physical shelving, the way we’re going to present it to you, the wine racking and nook system that’s coming in,” Gargano said. “We’ll have 9,000+ bottles of wine just in that section.”
Having already sold their products to Valpo residents through other stores, Gargano and Green look forward to further developing their relationship with the community. They are also excited to see how many people will stop by now that they have a prime location in Valpo.
“We understand the community a little bit,” Gargano said. “We know its choke points and traffic points, so we’re really excited to start this process. It’s going to be our first stand-alone store that’s anchored by a grocery store. With the heavy traffic that the grocery store produces, we’re interested to see how that will spill over to Wise Guys.”
The store will open near Strack and Van Til on U.S. 30 in Valparaiso around August 10.