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 Store? 
>> 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 (You Are Here)
>> Part 7 – Getting Approved
>> Part 8 – Final Preparations
>> Part 9 – Grand Opening
>> Part 10 – 1 Year Review: A Look Back

Tom applied for his liquor license in February but did not actually get it approved and issued to him until October.  In the meantime, there was a lot of stuff still going on while we waited.  Some of the time was spent preparing the physical location while other was spent more on the businesses process and punch list.

Things We Needed To Do For the License

For Tom’s license, there were various steps that he needed to do throughout the process.  Below are a few of them:

  • Get fingerprinted
  • Provide additional information as requested to keep the application process moving along

Other Things We Needed For The Business

There were a lot of small (and big) things that we needed to do in order to open the business.  While we were waiting for the license to be approved, we did not want to actually do most of them in case it did not get approved.  So we spent months preparing everything so that we could pull the trigger once the license was approved.  Below is a list that covers many of these items.

Purchase/Install Surveillance

We knew that we wanted a surveillance system for several reasons: security, theft reduction and remote viewing.  We were not planning on working at the store every day, so we wanted the ability to see what was going on at the store from our home office.   After  lot of research we decided on the Swann 8 Channel DVR system (this model is no longer available, but they do offer newer models).  It came with 8 cameras, a DVR and a bunch of other great features, such as being able to view the cameras on a smart phone.  We paired it with a 32″ TV and have it hanging on the wall in our home office.  We purchased it and played around with it, but we did not actually install it at the store until right before our grand opening.


Order a Grand Opening Sign

In order to announce our grand opening, we wanted a simple vinyl sign.  We ordered one from Vistaprint.grand-opening-banner

Business Checks

Although we prefer to do a lot of things online, there is still a need to have business checks.  We started out paying for everything with checks.  After looking around, Deluxe was the go to company that we kept coming back to for checks.  We placed our first order for 300 checks, which would last us a while.  We also picked up a 7 Ring Business Check Binder to hold the checks.

Click here to save 50% on your first order of business checks from Deluxe.

Business Checks

Order Business Cards

Business cards are one of the cheapest and best marketing material that you can have for your business.  Again I ordered from Vistaprint as they were cheap and got the job done.

Determine How to Handle Money

Any place that is accepting cash should have a secure place to store that cash until it can be deposited at the bank.  We did a lot of research and ended up with the Paragon 7925 Safe.  It has a programmable code that can allow access (and that we can change as needed).  It also has a deposit window at the top so employees can insert cash but not remove anything.  The construction is sturdy and we had this bolted to the building in a hidden location.

Credit Card System Setup

We needed a way to process credit cards for our business and ended up going with Heartland Payment Systems.  The rates were comparable and we were able to configure our Point of Sale system to connect directly with heartland, so we did not need any additional equipment.  We have live access to our transactions on their website and the customer support has been top-notch.  This was one of the areas that I did not know a lot about and was grateful that they made it so easy.

Determine Initial Inventory Order

Purchasing initial inventory for the store can be a challenge.  You want to make sure you have a selection to cover as many people as you can, but that is extremely difficult with wine and liquor as the selection is so large with products from literally around the world.  We utilized the top-selling products from the father’s store as a starting point, but it still took some time.  As you order more cases you get a volume discount, but that also means less money to purchase another product, so it was a trade-off.  Our strategy has been to order in volume when we can on a popular product, but we would rather have a larger selection for our customers, even if it has to cost them a little more.  The 2 major cities (Buffalo and Rochester) are 45 minutes away, so have a selection locally is often worth the little bit of extra cost.

Prepare to Order Sign

We had looked around for various places to create signs, and luckily one of the best sign shops was local (Sign Language).  They came out, took pictures of the building and went to work on some prototypes.  After a few rounds we agreed on a sign, but we held off on purchasing until we heard that our license was approved.

Research Point of Sale System

This research took quite a while.  I has previously set my father up with a Point of Sale system and originally planned to use the same one, but I wanted to make sure it would cover all of my needs, specifically around reporting.  After many hours and demos, I did come back and use the same system, which was Cash Register Express.


Research Shelving & Wine Racks

We had a specific look that we were after for our store.  In Part 5 we explained the process of preparing the physical store space and how we adjusted the layouts.  We spent several hours trying to determine the best layouts and searching for shelving that met our needs.

Plan Marketing Strategy

Our store was opening in a town that already had a wine and liquor store, so marketing was going to be a key to success.  We took a look at our demographic and types of customers.  We determined that we would use the trifecta of advertising: online, print and radio.  Some of our demographic would be younger/more tech savvy users, so we would have a presence on social media sites.  We found a large portion would be people who still read the weekly paper.  And surprisingly enough there was a local radio station that a lot of people listened to, so we were planing to test out some advertising on the radio as well.  As with all marketing, some of it is trial and error.

*Important Note: Don’t get too caught up on social media.  Yes, it is an important aspect, but it is an aspect.  We have seen far too many people have a presence on several social media sites, but they quickly find that they do not have time to manage them.  There are definitely ways to manage multiple social media account (which we will cover in future articles), but for now you probably just want to stick with Facebook.

Join Chamber of Commerce

If you own a business, I highly recommend joining your local Chamber of Commerce.  They are there to support local businesses and provide guidance.  When we joined, they actually came down and did our grand opening ceremony with us.

Create Internal Signs

We really wanted our store to be customer friendly.  If you have ever shopped for wine, you probably know how difficult it can be.  We decided to arrange our store by white wine, red wine and New York State wine.  In order to make it even easier, Ariana created great signs that not only said the type of wine in the section, but also described the grape and food pairing options for the wine.

Determine Pricing Strategy

I one had a marketing professor that said “never compete on price”.  He is correct, but that doesn’t mean to not be aware of the market and price accordingly.  We did some research (meaning that every time we passed a liquor store I would make Ariana pull over so we could see their prices on a few bottles, as well as their layout).  Once I had prices from various stores on common products (I used 1 liquor and 1 wine), I determined a price point that made sense from the perspective of the market and from a profitability perspective.

Put Together Employee Reference Manual

Ariana and I were not going to be working at the store all of the time, and the plan was to get to a point where we don’t need to be physically there, so it was important to define all of our processes and procedures. We brainstormed the various things that would need to be done and started documenting those procedures.

Once they processed and approved our application, the final step was to appear in person when they did the final review to determine if the license would be approved.  Stay turned for the next section to see how that process went.

Coming Up Next: Part 7 – Getting Approved