Noblesville and Retailers and Hamilton County and Liquor Stores and Small Biz Profiles and Retail and Small Business

Liquor store adapts to local tastes

April 27, 2009
When Mr. G's Liquor opened in 1977, the wines du jour were Madera and Blue Nun. Bartels & Jaymes wine coolers were all the rage, and few of us had heard of craft beer.

Today, Mr. G's is in its third location, a 5,000-square-foot supermarket of liquors, where a 36-foot wall of whiskeys, vodkas and gins is rivaled only by the kiosks fully laden with local, domestic and imported wines and beers chilling in coolers. It also has a cigar department.

From all indications, the Glover family, which founded and owns Mr. G's Liquor, has been doing everything right. It has seen a 10-percent annual growth rate the last several years and the business has successfully transitioned to new owners.

The store was founded by a Hamilton County native, the late Elijah Glover, a retired postal worker, and his sons, Wayne and Myron, who grew up and raised their families in Noblesville. The family worked with the Indianapolis Minority Business Development Center to develop a business plan, which they took to the president of American National Bank in Noblesville and received a startup loan.

Elijah did not work at the store, but Wayne ran the day-to-day operations until his retirement in 1997. Myron filled in the schedule, working after his day job in information technology at a bank, and on weekends. He started working at the store full time when his brother retired. Last year, Wayne's son, Bryan Glover, joined as part owner and the manager of the wine department after 20 years in the entertainment industry. The other key player is General Manager Kirk Baird, who in 1979 was the first full-time employee that Mr. G's hired.

Unlike many other business owners, the Glovers revisit and update their business plan on an annual basis.

"It's not just a one-time thing," said Bryan Glover, 51, a certified public accountant. They compare projections with actual figures and tweak the plan to meet goals. This year, the plan calls for a slight downward adjustment to the 10-percent growth goal because of the economic downturn.

However, there are no plans to cut back on advertising and marketing, a mistake a lot of businesses make in hard times.

"You don't stop marketing the business," Bryan said. Mr. G's e-mails the We've Got It newsletter to subscribers; conducts regular tastings of wines, liquors and liqueurs; partners with local restaurateurs for special evenings of food and wine pairings; and supports government and not-for-profit organizations, such as VIP dinners. Mr. G's advertises on local cable stations.

When the store moved to its current location a few years ago, the Glovers wanted to make it more appealing to women shoppers, so aisles are wide and items are clearly displayed. On a recent Monday morning, an employee was feather-dusting bottles of whiskey.

The employees know what they have and will educate you about their products, said Sharon McMahon, president of the 550-member Noblesville Chamber of Commerce. Myron Glover is a member of the chamber's board and serves as chairman of the membership services committee.

The store is "far above what you normally think of a liquor store. It is beautifully done," McMahon said.

Mr. G's stocks 684 different wines, some in temperature-controlled keepers, and 579 craft and imported beers. Clerks carry purchases to the car and there's free Hamilton County delivery for purchases of $100 or more.

To get to this point, the Glovers have had to manage the product explosion in the wine, liquor and beer industries, from sparkling vodkas to fruit-flavored beers. And, they've done it by making some mistakes, such as offering products no one likes or will buy, no matter how many tastings they try.

"Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You are going to make them, but don't be discouraged," said Myron Glover, 61.

"A lot of really smart people go into business, but do not succeed because they think they have all the answers. You do not have all the answers, and you need others to help you succeed," he said. Over the years, the Glovers have called on competitors, industry leaders and accountants for guidance and advice.

For the last 12 years, Mr. G's has worked with Jim Dixon, vice president of sales at Indianapolis-based Olinger Distributing Co., in selecting wine and spirits stock.

In the beginning, Dixon worked for a tiny distributor without well-known brands. But even then, he said, the Glovers were open to new products, even smaller labels and lesser-known brands.

"They've always been true to their customer base," Dixon said. When Deer Creek (now Verizon Wireless Music Center) opened, they started stocking more craft beers. "It has evolved with the market."

The Glovers, manager Baird and other employees are customer-focused, Dixon and McMahon said. Each mentioned that customers are known by their names and their favorite selections. Dixon said the Glovers and their staff also know all the vendors by name.

"It's been a lot of fun growing with them," Dixon said.

Although the economy weighs heavy on their minds, the Glovers also have concerns about recent movements to expand liquor sales to Sundays and to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell cold beer. Packaged-liquor stores already operate under regulations their competitors do not have. For instance, a grocery can sell beer, but anyone of any age can enter the premises, which is not the case for a packaged-liquor store, where admission is limited to people 21 and older, with proof of age. And packaged-liquor stores are not geared for Sunday sales in terms of personnel and operating procedures, Myron Glover said.

Regardless, Myron Glover said his family is focused on Mr. G's success, in part out of respect for their family's roots in the community and desire to honor their past.

"We wanted to make a difference and have a positive impact on our community. My family wanted to establish a strong business so it could be carried forward."
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