West Vail Liquor Mart celebrates 45th anniversary Saturday, Oct. 28, with tastings, giveaways
If you go ...
What: West Vail Liquor Mart’s 45th anniversary celebration.
When: 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28.
Where: West Vail Liquor Mart, 2151 North Frontage Road W., Vail.
More information: There will be cake, as well as a sparkling wine tasting and giveaways of bottles, logo merchandise and other items. The store is also giving away $45 gift cards at 2:45, 3:45, 4:45 and 5:45 p.m.
VAIL — West Vail Liquor Mart has been a town institution since 1972. On Saturday, Oct. 28, the store will celebrate its 45th anniversary.
West Vail was brand new when the store opened. The ski resort turned 10 that year, and the town of Vail was just 6 years old. In fact, West Vail wasn’t yet part of the town.
Store founder Charlie Crowley had worked at Vail’s first liquor store in Vail Village and had gone on to open Lionshead Liquor when the opportunity came to open a store in the fledgling town’s new western commercial area. Crowley and partner Howard Gardner kept the store for most of its history.
Current co-owner Tom Mullin was working for a wine wholesaler in Denver when he moved to Vail in 1988 to work at the store. In fact, Mullen lived for five years in one of the six bedrooms the store owns in the nearby Vail Das Schone building.
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Mullen became a part owner in 1996, and he and his wife, Laurie, have had full ownership since 2004.
The liquor business has changed dramatically over nearly a half-century. These days, Colorado is a hub of the nation’s craft brewing industry. Beyond that, the state is also home to a burgeoning distilled-spirits business and the state’s wine producers are earning more acclaim every year.
West Vail Liquor Mart supplies the adult beverages for a lot of weddings, Laurie said. Some of those weddings feature all-Colorado libations, she said. Some of those wedding families are also longtime customers.
“We have two key customer groups,” Laurie said. “The locals who live in Vail and visitors. There are people in both groups who have been loyal customers since the store opened.”
The store has a loyalty discount card program. Thousands of those cards have been issued over the past 45 years. There are still several customers who have three-digit cards. Some of those cards have been passed down from one generation to another.
Tom said that customer loyalty has been a key to the business’s success.
“We can’t succeed without loyal customers,” he said.
Tom added that good customers have provided the business with a path to elevate West Vail Liquor Mart’s standing in the local business community.
Laurie now serves in town and valley groups, including the Vail Economic Advisory Committee, the Vail Valley Partnership Board of Directors and the Bravo! Vail Music Festival.
“As a business, we see that it’s our role to give back to the community that supports us,” Laurie said. “If we care about what Vail is as a town and community, we have to be part of its leadership.”
That leadership includes working with the town’s sustainability efforts. That’s hard work for a business that uses a lot of cans, bottles and cardboard. But West Vail Liquor Mart was the first business certified in the town’s Actively Green program in the lead-up to the 2015 FIS World Ski Championships.
A strong staff
Besides the store’s loyal customers, the Mullens also give a lot of credit to their staff. General Manager Nick Agnew spearheaded the Actively Green effort, which includes recycling, more efficient lighting in the store and more.
There are also has three sommeliers on staff, and the store is constantly working on its displays and product mix.
Technology has also helped the business keep up with trends. A point-of-sale inventory tracking system helps the store’s buyers understand what’s selling. Having that information keeps the store current with the information customers bring with them.
“We see them on their phones, checking information, all the time,” Laurie said. “Our whole store is online (too). People can buy online and pick up or have it delivered. As a brick-and-mortar retailer, we’ve had to keep up.”
Keeping up as the store moves into the future will require loyal customers, a great staff and a dedication to taking advantage of technology.
But West Vail will start to change at some point in the not-too-distant future, as aging buildings are redeveloped. Tom Mullen said West Vail Liquor Mart has a role to play in that process.
“We have a vested interest in the area,” Tom said. “The community’s going to need a variety of services, and we’ll be part of that.”
And those who hold their three-digit loyalty cards will come to shop, and to say “hello.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.