2017 ALSA Retailer Awards

Congratulation to the Winners

The Alberta Liquor Store Association presented awards to top retailers from various-sized communities across Alberta, along with the Chairman’s award for providing outstanding service to the retail liquor industry and the Irv Kipnes Award for Excellence in Liquor Retailing. Help us congratulate the 2017 winners!

Crowfoot Wine & Spirits Signature, Calgary – 2017 Top Retailer Award for Communities over 80,000

Anyone can pack a store full of wine, but a good store needs an experienced team to assist customers with that selection. Bob Richardson, vice-president of Crowfoot Wine & Spirits in Calgary, says their intense staff training program sets their store apart from the rest. Not only does this mean their customers get great service, he explains, but it also means that staff gets more out of their careers.

“Our employee retention has dramatically increased with this training program, and that saves us a lot of time and energy because we always have trained people on the floor,” says Richardson. “Once you’ve got this training, you feel more comfortable in your position as an employee and now you want to stick around.”

Crowfoot Wine & Spirits also features a big events centre and a rotating set of different festivals and events throughout the year. “These events improve our customers’ awareness of the products that are out there and gives them an opportunity to try before they buy, right there in our store,” describes Richardson.

Wine and Beyond Emerald Hills, Sherwood Park – 2017 Top Retailer Award for Communities from 20,000 to 80,000

Wine and Beyond believes that Albertans are looking for a better shopping experience when they purchase alcohol, and they’ve set themselves up for the formidable task of providing this. Some of the keys to the success of the Wine and Beyond brand include convenient and accessible locations, deep product selection, knowledgeable staff, competitive pricing, and modern stores.

Sobeys Liquor, Canmore – 2017 Top Retailer Award for Communities from 5,000 to 20,000

There’s something for everyone at Sobeys Liquor in Canmore, whether you’re a first-time tourist or a local who’s lived in the community for years. “People want to experience local and discover something new and have some of that whether they live in town or they’re just visiting,” says Brent Newman, lead for Sobeys Liquor. “We’re unique to the community of Canmore. We bring in an assortment that people are looking for, especially some of the great craft beer and spirits from around that area.”

Customer service is also a pillar of their store’s success, Newman says. He credits their manager, Jodi Hoiback, for leading the team that ensures everyone walks away happy. “Whether it’s someone who’s a regular or someone who’s coming in to visit, Jodi and her team really do an incredible job to help the customers either find what they’re looking for or find something that they’ll really like and enjoy. They do everything they can to make sure it’s a great experience for the customer.”

Back Door Liquor Store, Barrhead – 2017 Top Retailer Award for Communities under 5,000

You won’t find a better price anywhere else in Alberta than at Back Door Liquor in Barrhead, according to owner Philip Bachmier, who has built his store on this promise and sticks to it. “I do a yearly check around and in the city, and we have the best prices around,” he states. “We guarantee our prices. We meet or beat any prices around. If anyone can find a lower price, we’ll give them whatever they are buying, a buck off extra a bottle.” He describes that some people even drive from Edmonton just to shop at his store, and the store regularly ships out orders to people outside the town. But it’s not just great prices that bring people in. Bachmier and his team take pride in their service and selection as well. “Our product selection is probably 20 to 30% more than anyone around,” he says.

 Calgary Co-op Wine, Spirits and Beer – 2017 Irv Kipnes Award for Excellence in Liquor Retailing

It isn’t just one thing that sets Co-op Wine, Spirits and Beer apart from the crowd, but rather a number of facets that lets them provide an exceptional shopping experience. “Many liquor stores have the same offerings; but our teams work hard at staying up with trends and looking for innovative ways to be different,” explains Dan Ellis, category director for Co-op Wine, Spirits and Beer. “Our tasting centres are great places to learn about new products or history of the brands you have already fell in love with. Many times, with our locations, we are able to corner the market on something new and hot, making our stores the only destination that you can get it at.”

Co-op also invests many hours in training all their team members, ensures they are stocking stores with the right selection for the particular communities they serve, and have on-site tasting centres to give customers the opportunity to sample and learn about new products.

Edward Saramaga – 2017 Chairman’s Award

Once you hear about all the work he’s done with his local community, it’s not surprising that Edward Saramaga received the 2017 Chairman’s Award–although he says he certainly wasn’t expecting it. He owns a couple of stores in Alberta: Liquor on McLeod in Spruce Grove, which just celebrated its 24th anniversary, and Liquor Cottage in Alberta Beach. Through his stores, Saramaga has become an important part of the local community and continues to give back through partnerships with community members including the Spruce Grove Saints junior hockey team, the local food bank, Ducks Unlimited, the local legion, curling clubs, and golf courses. They also host several local area residents on annual wine tours to the Okanagan Valley.

“There isn’t hardly anything that we don’t get involved with, or help out,” Saramaga says. “We do home deliveries; we do just about everything. It’s all family oriented.”