Farewell to a Friend

This past week the K&L Redwood City store lost its head of security after a battle with illness. If you ever checked in with our staff directory in the past, you might have noticed that it contained a number of canine friends, each with their own title and position within the company (we've since taken down these listings in favor of....professionalism?). Billy was for many years the upstairs enforcer who reported to one man only, our customer service agent Sal Rodriquez. I walked by a barking Billy on many a morning, hoping to make it to my desk without interrogation, no snacks on hand to bribe my way past his intimidating force. Sadly, however, his presence is no longer with us. I'm turning the blog over to Sal today who penned this touching tribute to his friend:

I remember when you picked me out of many other possible human parents ten years ago. I remember the warnings they gave me. They told me that if I went home with you that I would have to enroll you in doggy behavioral classes. They told me that you had just gotten in a fight with a toothless old dog. You were about two years old, or so they thought. I smiled and thought, that's just the thing I would do: fight with a toothless older person! I knew we were meant to be together. We went to classes. You graduated with honors because you loved the treats.

Ever since the first day we went for that ride home, you've been my little shadow. We've gone on trips, we've been to the ocean, and you've charmed your way into many people's hearts. Whenever I had the opportunity to introduce you to my human friends, I had to warn them that you were the fastest kisser in the west. That you would be kissing them right on the mouth when they were least expecting it. I was always right. They got kissed! You went to work with me and became security of the office, making sure that everyone passing through was a friend—barking only if there was a foe or someone with an awful beard. When you weren't protecting the office from dangerous thugs, you managed to wiggle your way into being Shaun's lap dog. Probably because he had the best supply of snacks. You guys were bestest buds. There was no-one in the office that didn't like you. I won't "out" the people who you didn't like. Let's just say, you knew how to read whether or not a human was a good person.

At home there was a constant flow of "good job, Billy" because you always knew how to do the coolest tricks. You could dance, shake, turn circles, lay down, roll over, fetch, and accept treats. Treats were where you excelled. You would do anything necessary for a human snack.

We moved recently, so I had plenty of pieces of furniture to put together and you tirelessly watched me put it all together. I don't know what you got out of it, but I loved the company. I would talk to you about what I was going to do next. I said things like, "this bolt goes here" and "I have to place this panel here next", and you would look at me very curiously, like you were trying to get a grasp on how it all worked. If I was changing oil, or brakes, in the garage, you were just as curious. I think you just enjoyed being around me: your faithful buddy. There were no dogs I loved more than you. I trusted you. I was never alone when I was cussing out a tool or instruction that was getting on my nerves. You let me tell you all of my secrets and no-one knows more about me than you.

All of the fun times we had, restful moments we took together, and kind energy you exuded, could not stop you from aging and becoming sick in your old age. It hurt me to watch you helpless. After all you helped me through it was the least I could do to make your passing a safe and peaceful one.

Yesterday, when I watched you take your last breath, my hands on your shoulder and my face next to yours, so I could be the last person you saw in this world, I hope you know that the tears I had were because you made an incredible, loving, lasting impression upon my life. I hope you know it was because I loved being your friend. I hope you know it was because I knew it was going to be hard to do this without your silent comforting gestures. I don't have the same relationship with anyone else and I will miss you like no-one else.

The end has come for this part of our journey. I can only hope that you felt every bit as loved and safe as I felt when you were with me. I will always have our friendship to remember you by and just remember, when you see me cry, when I have thoughts of you, you can know that it hurts like hell to be without you, but I would do it all over again exactly the same. Thank you for being part of my world and accepting me the way I am. I could never in ten lifetimes show you how much you've meant to me.

-Sal Rodriguez


Prime Burgundy Time

I don't want to toot my own horn, or anything, but let me distract you from spirits for a moment to tell you: never in our store's history have we had as much good Burgundy for affordable prices as we do right now. Alex, Trey, and I have been hard at work behind the scenes, working with new producers and expanding allocations with some of our favorite imports to bring you—for the first time I can remember—more red Burgundy that you can handle.

Seriously. There's almost too much. There's so much delicious new Bourgogne rouge in stock we can't fit it all on the shelf. You can go check out the On the Trail blog where I've been posting about this, or you can click on the links below, but if you even remotely care about wine this is a rare moment in history. It's made that much more exciting (and desperate) by the fact that 2016 is pretty much dead as a vintage in Burgundy. Frost and hail wiped out most of the fruit, so 2014 and 15 will be vintages to grab while they're here. 

As if the new Giboulot, Charriére, and Bart values weren't exciting enough (these are a few of our best direct imports), we just got in a batch of closeouts from Diageo that are half-priced and seriously serious. My colleagues and I are currently scrambling to see how much each of us can afford before we send out the big email next week. Again, I stress, this is a rare time at K&L. I remember back in the day during our previous Burgundy era when finding a drinkable, exciting, and character-driven red Burgundy was difficult. Today I don't even know where to start!

2015 is the best red Burgundy vintage I've tasted in my career, so I'm doing whatever I can to alert people to our current surplus of riches. Go over to Pronto down the street on El Camino, get a roasted chicken combination dinner, pop a bottle of $20 Bourgogne rouge, and find out what the fuss is about.

That's most definitely what I'll be doing tonight.

-David Driscoll


Totally Awesome Laphroaig 10 Price

Healthy competition seems to have no place in modern business anymore. It's not enough to compete in the current global economy, you have to stamp out your opponents and force them into submission. Completely eliminate the competition by any means necessary. We used to have Beltramo's down the street here on the Peninsula and, while we definitely had a rivalry going, it was never bitter or ill-intentioned. If we didn't have a bottle in stock, we'd call Belt's on the phone and send the customer down that way instead. We never wanted anyone to lose their job, or their ability to do business. In the end, we recognized and respected our local competitor.

That's not the case with some major wine and spirits retailers, however. 

What's interesting (and simultaneously disgusting) is that some of these guys, when they launch into a new market, will even run at a loss in order to bankrupt the local competition and ruin the atmosphere for any other merchant. They can afford to lose millions because they've run the same racket elsewhere and it's built up a giant reserve of cash. Meanwhile, small mom and pops who specialize in customer service and commitment to relationships go under. They think price trumps all, and they're probably right because it's worked everywhere else they've gone. They bully the competition, bully the distributors, and force their way into total dominance.

I learned long ago as a kid in Modesto, however, that there's only one way to deal with a bully: you punch them right in the fucking mouth. You have to let them know that the bully strategy will not work here.

The thing that most bullies don't recognize is that even their lackeys, the guys who ultimately enable them, aren't really their friends. They might play along out of fear or lack of a strong backbone, but ultimately their loyalty is based on necessity, not out of partnership. On the flip side, K&L has spent decades working side by side with suppliers, building working relationships that benefit everyone from the producer all the way to the customer, allowing everyone to win. 

Because of that long track record of friendly business, our friends will stand up for us when we need them. The bully can't survive when that happens.

Now enjoy this new price on Laphroaig 10! Islay whisky always tastes better when it's ten dollars less than it should be!

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky $32.99

-David Driscoll


Totally Lower in Price

Like I said earlier, when the market starts to heat up and the pressure of quotas begins to tighten like a noose around the neck of suppliers, dumb decisions get made and all hell breaks loose. People start playing around with brand integrity and end up ruining the party for everyone (except for whiskey customers, of course!) Take our new price on Lagavulin 16 year, for example. It's totally lower than anyone else at the moment. Like, totally. Most places are at $70 per bottle, which is where we used to be. But we're totally beating everyone now.

We're at $55.99, which is totally the lowest price we've ever offered. 

As I mentioned in this morning's post, when retailers and suppliers start getting sloppy, you the customer win! And you win big! Like with fifty-five dollar bottles of Lagavulin 16. All I have to do is make a few phone calls, and--poof!--the price changes just like that! I know some big stores think they're in control of pricing and that they call the shots in the major market because they buy volume, but I'm here to tell all of them clearly and matter of factly:

YOU DON'T. We can flip that script in two seconds and we can do it whenever we want.

I can't wait to see what else happens! This is totally crazy! 

-David Driscoll


It's On

If you already thought it was a great time to be a whiskey drinker, get ready—it's about to get really, really good.

I say that not because whiskey today is better than it's ever been, not because of the industry's currently vast selection of new craft distilleries, and not because exciting young producers are popping up every day, adding depth and intrigue to the booming market.

And not for any other reason you might expect either.

Why is it a great time to be a whiskey fan, you ask? Because you're about to see what happens when an entire retail industry goes to war over pricing due to an oversaturated, overstretched, and overexposed whiskey market that's beginning to buckle under all that extra weight. I've been smelling blood in the water for months and every week that goes by the desperation to move product seems to get stinkier. The tension is now beginning to boil. All the sleazy deals and hidden skeletons that the major players have been attempting to sweep under the carpet are getting exposed. 

Take a seat.

Get some popcorn.

You're in for a treat.

Things began to get interesting yesterday morning when one of the nation's largest retailers put in a formal complaint about our pricing on a particular spirit—one that was actually the result of temporary inventory reduction measures, rather than any actual deal or favorable treatment from the supplier. That little spoiled temper tantrum put into motion a series of further inquiries that shed light on other retailers whose below-wholesale pricing now has a number of other stores pretty upset. I won't go into the nitty gritty details, but if you understand business it's pretty clear what's happening. It's everything I've been predicting since I did my infamous "work is what's next" interview/blog post a while back:

1) the brands and distributors are under pressure to beat last year's numbers

2) there's no way in hell they can, however, because there's too much competition in the market now

3) the sales folk whose jobs are on the line eventually get desperate and cut deals they shouldn't

4) the promises made by the recipients to hold retail prices in line with competitors are immediately broken

5) all hell breaks loose as a result and the market gets flooded with crazy deals 

6) things really heat up when retailers begin shedding inventory to recoup cash against that instability

Don't think this is a bad thing for K&L, however. Personally, I couldn't be happier! I absolutely live for moments like this. I love starting some shit, getting my hands dirty, going deep into the low post and knocking out a few teeth with an elbow before going baseline for the one-handed stuff. I'm predicting some pretty good deals for the rest of 2017. Whiskey drinkers are going to be thrilled, especially when I start dumping stuff at prices too good to be true. 

As the late, great Eazy-E once said: if it's on, then it's on.

So let's get it on, guys. Let's duke it out and let the customers win. I can go all day and all night. 

-David Driscoll