Monday, June 22, 2009

New BJ's Liquor Store

Back in January, I mentioned that a new liquor store was coming to Stoneham. A liquor license was granted to RWJ Beverage LLC. and they have now opened a small store within B.J.'s Wholesale Club. I previously had some concerns about whether this would be the type of store that I would like, whether it would be a place for wine lovers or not.

I have checked out the new store a couple times now, and should note that some minor changes were made since my original stop. But, much of my concerns about this store seem to have been realized.

The store is roughly rectangular with wine and alcohol on three sides, plus two rows of wine bins in the middle of the store. There is a small, windowed case for some of the more expensive items.

They sell some hard liquor though their selection is more limited than many other stores. For example, they only have eight brands of vodka, from Gordon's to Ketel One. Prices are good and that seems to be the primary reason why many will buy alcohol here. Though you can find other stores with similar competive prices, such as Rapid Liquors in Stoneham.

There are about 100 different wines available, approximately 90% costing less than $20. There are many familiar brands, such as Yellowtail and Beringer. They seemed to be heavy on California wines and I was not keen on their diversity. This is not a place where I found anything unique or unusual. But, prices are good and that will be a drawing point for some. For example, the Caymus Conundrum only cost $22, as opposed to the more usual $27-$30.

There were only about five higher-end wines in their windowed cabinet, from a 2006 Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) to a 2006 Concha Y Toro Don Melchor ($60). Those prices are only about 10% less than usual retail so they are not significantly discounted.

The store will likely undergo some further minor changes in the near future but they are not headed in the direction I would prefer. This is not a destination for wine lovers but rather a place to go to save a little money on ordinary wines and liquors. Though my preference, if I want to save money and get a better selection of wine and alcohol, I will continue going to Rapid Liquors.

Update as of 6/22/09 (2:30pm): I had an informative conversation with Mike Reardon of RWJ Beverage. He explained much about the model for his wine/liquor store, future plans, and other such matters. It was a very positive conversation and I will be sharing my insights soon. In short, Mike is really trying to improve the store and make it a worthwhile destination.


Anonymous said...

Nice Post
Steven Spurrier

Robert Dwyer said...

Wow, I couldn't disagree more with your assessment of these stores. I've visited the Danvers store once, and the Stoneham store twice including yesterday. Each time I visited there was a wine tasting going on, and the people who worked there were helping people make wine selections.

Each time I've found wines that I've been seeking out or have blogged about (2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Cab, 2007 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, Lewelling Cab, Chappellet Cab, etc). On these harder to find items, the margins were *razor* thin in my opinion. Take for example the Lewelling Cab- $59.99 at Post Road Liquors and $39.99 with no quantity purchase req'd. Of course you can get the price down to $48 if you buy 6 mixed bottles at Post Road but I like not having to buy too many bottles if I don't want to.

You say "this is not a destination for wine lovers" but I think that's a faulty generalization. I love wine and I've made the drive there 3 times.


Richard Auffrey said...

Do you know when they hold their wine tastings? I have yet to see one at the stores, and they don't have signage indicating the times of such tastings.

Concerning the Stoneham store, do you disagree with the factual info I provided?

Such as: 1) They only have eight brands of vodka; 2) There are about 100 different wines available, approximately 90% costing less than $20; 3) They seemed to be heavy on California wines; 4) There were only about five higher-end wines in their windowed cabinet.

I am not keen on their diversity. Interestingly, all the wines you mentioned were California ones. And none of them I would consider unique or unusual.

If a person came to this store and was seeking something like Spanish or South African wines, they would have very few, if any, to choose from.

Yes, you may find a few less expensive CA wines here, but that alone is not a reason to praise the store. Not when the same prices can be found elsewhere, with more variety. Rapid Liquors or Bin Ends is a much better choice.

MIke Reardon said...

We have a tasting every Thursday- Sunday. I would love to meet you at the store to discuss your ideas on how you would make it more interesting . We do have representation from Spain, France, Italy, Austria... etc., But I still would love the chance for you and I to tour the store together and discuss your opinions. I have worked hard to be sure we carry all the category leaders in spirits. My challenge is that we can’t carry all different colors and flavors of vodka because of space. The 175 different wines are very fluid and change as we get opportunities that show value to our customers.

Mike Reardon
RWJ Beverage

Richard Auffrey said...

Hello Mike:
Thanks very much for taking the time to post your comments here. I would appreciate meeting you at the store some time to discuss these issues. Please email me so we can further discuss it.


Robert Dwyer said...

I think each consumer has different preferences, and therefore a lot of different retail models might or might not work well. I have a lot of respect for the people making a go of it in the retail space- it's not easy making everyone happy.

In addition to the items in the glass cabinet, there was a list of a dozen or so wines that were behind the counter.

I think 8 different types of vodka is adequate if not excessive (but hey, I don't drink much vodka). I think most liquor stores stock too many SKUs to their detriment. I'd rather see wine store owners focus on products they strongly believe in, derive deeper discounts by buying those items in quantity, and then passing that discount along to me.

I've never been to Rapid Liquors, but I am a huge fan of what they're doing at Bin Ends. Totally different model at Bin Ends- and very little overlap with what I see at the Stoneham/Danvers stores. For me, both models are innovative and time (and consumer dollars) will determine which models will be successful.

Anonymous said...

Do you happen to know how much kettle one was?