BC’s 2017 Liquor Retailer of the YearCascadia Liquor
At Cascadia Liquor Stores, employees refer to their clientele not as customers, but as guests. Staff, many of whom hold certification in wine and beer education, are justifiably known as “resident product experts”. It’s a guest-focused, hospitality-style approach that has led to the company’s successful growth across Vancouver Island.
Now, Cascadia Liquor has also been named ABLE BC’s 2017 Liquor Retailer of the Year.
Owned by the Truffles Group, Cascadia Liquor benefits from the Victoria-based company’s 25 years of expertise in catering, hospitality, and tourism as well as beverage retail.
Regional Operations Manager Jeremy Pott easily points out why Cascadia Liquor stores stand out. “We offer an enhanced guest experience, knowledgeable and engaging staff, a unique curated product selection, and community involvement.”
Jeremy continues, “We really try to educate our guests and pride ourselves on going the extra mile. We want them to learn something while they’re here and feel appreciated.”
Cascadia Liquor operates five stores in the Greater Victoria area, one in Courtenay, and a new mid-Island store in Nanoose Bay. Stores range in size with larger locations featuring tasting bars. All stores share a welcoming West Coast style, designed in sections with low millwork to help guests choose from a large, well-chosen selection of wine, craft beer, and spirits.
Featuring Local Products
While its selection spans the globe, Cascadia Liquor’s product line is strongly focused on local and craft producers from the Pacific Northwest, BC, and Vancouver Island.
Jeremy advises, “We work closely with local breweries like Driftwood, Hoyne, and Category 12, and with wineries such as Averill Creek and Unsworth Vineyards.”
Staff are encouraged to pursue what their passions are, whether it be beer, wine, cider, or spirits.
Featured Vancouver Island distillers include Sheringham Distillery, known for its award-winning Akvavit, and Wayward Distillation House, makers of vodka from BC honey. Cascadia also showcases small nearby cider houses, including Sea Cider in Saanichton and the new Victoria micro-cidery, Tod Creek Craft Cider.
Investing in Staff Knowledge and Certification
Many of Cascadia’s staff have undergone wine and beer certification. Jeremy is a Certified Sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) and is a Certified Cicerone®, the certification for professionals dedicated to beer.
He explains, “We invest a lot in our staff’s knowledge and education. We are currently putting staff through WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) 1 & 2, Cicerone® certification, and other product-related courses. It’s a great working environment, where staff are encouraged to pursue what their passions are, whether it be beer, wine, cider, or spirits.”
In addition, the company has recently created the position of full-time educational trainer, a job that has gone to a long-time employee with a passion to teach. This position will further augment staff knowledge of curated products and food pairing information for guests.
Embracing Local Producers through Masterclasses
All seven Cascadia locations offer weekly tastings and monthly masterclasses.
“Masterclasses are led by the primaries of the business such as the winemaker or brewmaster, describes Jeremy. “Guests are able to gain an in-depth look into these local producers and are able to taste their products. It’s a very engaging and interactive class.”
Recent seminars focused on how rosé wines are made, and another delved into the history of unique whiskies, including those made in Taiwan and India.
Cascadia General Managers are encouraged to write about specialty products on the company blog and in-store tasting notes, or in articles published in the stores’ advertising flyers.
In addition, staff offer cellar consultations and one-on-one or self-guided tastings for guests hosting a function or choosing hard-to-find products for a dinner party.
“Staff love to do that. It’s so much fun,” enthuses Jeremy. “You see that moment where guests try something new that they really like and take it away. They appreciate it. It’s one of the best things about my job.”
Benefitting Charities Close to Home
Cascadia invites guests to contribute to local charities by leaving a donation or donating their bottles in exchange for free ice, or attendance at a masterclass. All proceeds from $5 to $10 ticket sales for masterclasses go to Cascadia’s monthly charity partners. Last year, Cascadia Liquor raised $27,000 for local charities, including the Surfrider Foundation, BC Hospitality Foundation, HeroWork, and Power To Be.
“Being part of the community is key for us, especially being a locally owned and operated company ourselves,” explains Jeremy.
Cascadia Liquor is currently expanding its main downtown Victoria store to accommodate a tasting bar, educational seminars, and more specialized products. The company currently plans to continue expansion to provide more store locations in a number of local communities.
Jeremy concludes, “We’ve worked hard to make our brand prominent across Vancouver Island, and are proud to be a part of so many great communities.”