It's hard to believe. Where has time gone?
In 2007, Grant and I took over a run down, barely ever stocked, underperforming liquor store at West Edmonton Mall. Our opening day was July 1, 2007.
We were living in Vancouver at the time and somehow, with super human effort, determination, lots of hard work, some huge doubts, and a deadline, we managed to pull off a store reno, a property sale and a move from one province to another within 2 months!
While we both had business experience in other fields, we had never run a retail store, and other than enjoying wine on the weekend, didn't know much about wines, spirits or beer! We weren't spring chickens either, talk about a mid-life change!
Looking back on the sixteen years, I reflect on how fortunate we were to have an opportunity to embark on a whole new adventure in our lives. We lived in the Holiday Inn in West Edmonton while mucking out the store, before moving into a condo for 5 years, then buying a house in the West End. We spent long days and nights learning our new business, setting up computer systems, licensing requirements, new banks and regulations, developing marketing plans, networking where we knew no one. Even understanding what to order into the store to sell each week was a challenge!
On July 1 2007, when we first opened our doors to the public, our computerized till had not been set up yet, we had basic inventory, no proper cashier counter or tasting bar. Being a stat holiday (Canada Day), there were lots of people in the mall enjoying celebrations and the air conditioned atmosphere on a hot July day, so we had many curious and delighted new customers. "Finally," one said, " a nice liquor store in the mall! " We still proudly serve some of these first local customers to this day.
June - July 1, 2007 photos
I even remember our sales for the day: $302.00!
We've enjoyed many milestones over the years - from winning Best Liquor Store in Edmonton in 2009, holding the first and largest BC Winefest for consumers in 2014 at The Edmonton Petroleum Club, hosting annual Roses in May, Great Whites, Gins in June tastings and Christmas Open Houses, and Wine Maker dinners in town.
Our successful wine travel programme got underway in 2014 with a Bordeaux River Cruise, 2016 Winos & Rhinos to South Africa and 2018 a Portugal River Cruise. Then Covid put a halt to travelling for awhile.
We proudly survived the Covid years. While the whole of West Edmonton Mall was closed ( except for London Drugs), we were open but with no traffic coming to the mall we had to really get creative. Special case buys, gift baskets, home deliveries were communicated through our newsletters each week and face book page. Our staff were "laid off" collecting CERB and Grant & I worked reduced hours to keep up with these initiatives.
Like everyone, we were so relieved when we could recall everyone and get back to serving customers in the store again! It was also wonderful to have our staff back working.
So, as we embark on our 16th year in business in a destination mall that many people doubted we would last in when we first started this journey, I am proud of our accomplishments, our staff over the years, our loyal customers, and the relationships we have cultivated through this often difficult and competitive sector of retail. A big thank you also goes out to our employees - Devin, Derek, Gaylene, Ken, DeWayne and Harry, West Edmonton Mall, The Ghermezians, Tenant services, security and everyone who keeps the place ticking.
To anyone thinking about starting a new business and is afraid to dip a big toe in the waters of uncertainty, I say, as long as you have the confidence in yourself to forge ahead, work hard, make mistakes and own them, stand up for what you believe in, surround yourself with supportive like-minded people and listen to your gut, go for it! Life is too short to wonder if you could.................
Thanks for all your support!
Alison & Grant & Team Aligra