K&L Spirits Dept 2010 - What's Coming Up, How We Can Improve

It's been nearly a year since I found out that I was going to be the next spirits buyer at K&L.  I didn't actually start doing any buying until September, but I was told last May to start getting my ideas together.  My whisky-loving predecesor Susan Purnell let me add a few new products over the summer so I could then hit the ground running when I took full control.  So far I'm pretty satisfied with the way things have gone and it's been a fantastic learning process - both about who our spirits customers are and also how I can best serve all of you.  I thought I'd take this moment, sitting at home watching the Giants take on the Cardinals, to give you an update on some of our plans for the future as well as ask for your input as to how we can make the rest of 2010 even better. 

In between dozing on the couch (after an incredible lunch from Moira & Derek at Martin's West) and waiting for sports to start, I watched a few episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and felt an immediate pang of inspiration to do a better job at helping the Bay Area community.  If you haven't watched him before, you should set your DVR to record every episode.  The last episode I viewed before flipping open the old laptop saw Anthony take a trip to Portland & Seattle where he visited local restaurants and sampled the cuisine.  The idea that really stuck with me was a line from a Bourdain voiceover where he talked about how the Pacific Northwest has become a haven for people who do one thing really well.  When you get a bunch of those people all working in the same neighborhood - making cheese, distilling booze, cooking Italian food, curing meats, etc. - it makes for an interesting place to live and visit.  I feel like we're really getting a great little stretch of destinations in Redwood City (with us, Martin's West, Donato's, Sigona's, Gourmet Haus, and an ever expanding list of other great places) and as excited as I am to be a part of a great local vendor, seeing Bourdain visit those Pac NW spots really got me motivated to do a better job. Here's how I'm going to do it:

1) Expansion - Starting next month the Redwood City store is going to be completely remodeled inside.  This is great news for me and my shelving system.  At the moment, I have more bottles than space and some of them are too tall to stand upright (as you've probably noticed while grabbing a bottle of North Shore gin).  While I think we're doing a fantastic job with the website, I think the in-store experience could be better.  I want every product to have a sign and a description so that browsing the shelf can be like perusing the online catalog.  I also want more product!  Starting this summer we will have an even bigger selection of in store bottles.  More booze, equals more fun.

2) More Tastings - I love Martin's West, and as I said above, I'm all about building more ties within the Peninsula food and bev community.  It seems people really loved the gin tasting and want more cocktail-oriented stuff to balance out the whisk(e)y tastings.  I plan to do more of everything with all kinds of price points to keep things affordable, inclusive, and fun.

3) Personal Sommelier Perks -  I really love that more people are signing up for the personal sommelier spirits club and when I figure out how to work it better, there are going to be even more perks for people that are club members.  I really want you to be getting something special - more than just a discounted bottle every month.

4) Education - I want people who are interested to have access to the educational resources that I have.  I am either going to create an online database for spirits information or find more links to people who have already created one.  We should be promoting appreciating through knowledge as well as consumption.  For me, I'm finding that I could do with a bit more of the former and a bit less of the latter.

5) Customer Input - Ideas?  What makes you go to other stores instead of ours?  I want to know what we could do better.  Even if we can't do it yet, I want to know what you would like to see us do.  Please email me if you have a gripe, a concern, or a plan.

-David Driscoll

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David Driscoll