In this 10 part series, we are going to pull back the curtain and take you behind the scenes as we started our wine and liquor store.  We recommend starting at the beginning.  Some of this information will be specific to our store and New York State, but we will try to keep most of the information general to apply to a variety of brick and mortar stores.  If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and we will do our best to answer.

>>Introduction – 10 Part Series: How to Start Your Own Business 
>>>> Part 1 – Find Your Desire: Why Do You Want to Open a Business?  (You Are Here)
>> Part 2 – Research the Market: Will it Support Your Product or Service? 
>> Part 3 – Finding the Ideal Location 
>> Part 4 – Get Required Licenses
>> Part 5 – Prepare the Location
>> Part 6 – Waiting for Licenses
>> Part 7 – Getting Approved
>> Part 8 – Final Preparations
>> Part 9 – Grand Opening
>> Part 10 – 1 Year Review: A Look Back

The Story of an Accidental Business Owner

Tom’s father worked as a carpenter, electrician, plumber and “Mr. Fix It” for over 30 years.  He graduated high school but did not attend college (like a good portion of the population of baby boomers).  As a result, you would not expect me to tell you that while working a full-time construction job, Tom’s father bought a small wine and liquor store.  He made this purchase while Tom and I were still in college, so in addition being completely out of the blue, it also excited us.  Not many college students can say that their family owns a liquor store.

Given his background and lack of prior business experience, you might wonder how Tom’s father ending up owning a liquor store.  It comes down to seeing an opportunity and taking advantage of it.  You see, we all have opportunities every day, but what separates the entrepreneurs from every else is that entrepreneurs see them and act on them.  Two of his friends were going through a divorce. One of them owned a building and the other owned the liquor store inside the building.  The building contained the liquor store on the first floor and an apartment on the second floor.  He negotiated with both of them to help them each unload their portion of ownership, became a business owner and allowed them to move on with their lives.

During the summer before his senior year, Tom lived in an apartment above the store.  His father had split one very large (and long) apartment into two.  One of them had been renovated while the other was still in need of work.  In exchange for free rent, Tom renovated the apartment.  He also filled in some shifts at the liquor store.

Prior to working at the store, Tom was aware that the Finger Lakes Region produced wine and was within a few hours’ drive, but he did not realize how popular the region was for wine.  For those who are not aware, the Finger Lakes are a collection of lakes in New York and contain over 100 wineries.  After working at the store and talking to many customers, not only did he become more interested in wine, but he also became more interested in how big of an impact the local wineries had on New York State.  Not only did they produce and distribute wine, but there were also several thriving wine tour trails that attracted people from all over.

Like Father, Like Son

A few years after graduating college, Tom had helped his father remove himself from the day-to-day operations of running his own liquor store, as well as assisted him in growing the business.  These tasks included hiring staff to replace himself as a cashier and upgrading from a cash register to an electronic point of sale (POS) system with inventory tracking and reporting.

A few years later Tom and I had bought a house and started our lives together.  We got married and both had jobs.  Tom and his father had started investing in real estate and they had several properties.  One Saturday, after returning from working on one of their properties, Tom declared that we were going to purchase a liquor store.  Not much different from when Tom told me we were going to become landlords, I was a bit taken back.  We were busy with our jobs and Tom was working weekends to renovate all of the properties that we had purchased.  Oh, and did I also mention that I was pregnant?

Tom has mentioned the thought of starting another business in the past, but it was more of just an idea than anything concrete.   That was until Tom heard that there was a liquor store for sale.  He came home and jumped on the internet to start doing research.  He found the listing, which was actually for the liquor store and attached house.  The next few days he spent continuing his research and planning.

Our Why

The thought of being able to expand into a new type of business and also be able to support all of the local wineries was appealing, but Tom has a way of getting an idea and jumping head first into it.  I, on the other hand, prefer to take some time to discuss our options, see how they tie into your life goals and make an informed decision together.

After doing some research into the store, Tom came away disappointed.  The location was poor, the store was small and outdated and the owner was asking far too much money.  Tom also learned that the store had been for sale for several years and had not yet been purchased, which just confirmed that the owner was asking too much.

After letting Tom get the initial excitement out of his system, we sat down and talked about the opportunity.  As I love to do, we make a pros and cons list.  We also reviewed our 10 year goals (along with our mini goals that lead towards the 10 year goal).  We decided that opening a store would be good for us.  Tom had really enjoyed what he learned by working in his father’s store and helping his father build his business.  It also tied into our goals of being able to retire young.  Beyond just our goals, it felt right.  We both grew up in small towns and had a special place for them in our hearts.  We knew that we could create a great experience for customers and also help support the New York State wineries.  The only problem was that the store that Tom was looking  did not seem to fit our needs.

A few weeks went by, then Tom had a great idea.  We could just open our own store!  Not only did he have the experience and support of his father, but he also owned a real estate investment company with his father.  They had spent the last several years buying properties, renovating them and renting them out.  Their real estate business could purchase a building and the store could then rent from them.

Coming Up Next: Part 2 – Research the Market: Will it Support Your Product or Service?