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Worthington's liquor store reflects health of community

Dan Wycoff, manager of Worthington's municipal liquor store, has helped increase sales. "When you're busy, time goes fast. Times goes fast, we have fun, as long as you don't make a whole lot of mistakes," Wycoff said. (Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Dan Wycoff punched some numbers into a calculator. "We've shown a consistent 8 percent increase year after year," he said.

Surrounded by liquor bottles and bags of money, Wycoff, general manager of the Worthington municipal liquor store, rattled off more numbers.

Estimated sales this year? More than $3 million. Average sale? $23 per customer. Temperature of the new beer cooler? 33 degrees. That 8 percent increase? It translates into

roughly $250,000 every year.

At Worthington's only liquor store, business is good these days. Under the command of Wycoff, the store's efforts have paid off.

"I'm very thankful on those busy days: you see all the hard work you've done," Wycoff said.

"I've been here three years now and all I have done is build on the foundation that was given to me by increasing our inventory and selection, a little advertising and a friendly and positive atmosphere here in the store."

As a municipal liquor store, its profits are for the city, which decides how the funds are used.

That's good news for the Worthington community. More money stays local, and the city grows.

The liquor store is growing into a 'destination' liquor store for the area, Wycoff believes. "In a 30-mile radius now, people say, 'I know where to find that,' 'I can come to Worthington to get that.'"

The increase in shoppers enables new product offerings: the liquor store is able to carry a wider variety of beverages because the level of traffic in the store makes such stocking decisions feasible.

"More people are coming and shopping this store. People are spending more money because they are finding more things they're looking for."

While Wycoff uses a variety of tools to make decisions about what alcohol products to carry, customers and the community are crucial. "The best advertising is word of mouth," Wycoff said.

These days, trending beverages include craft beer (Wycoff carries beer from Minnesota and Midwest breweries), flavored vodka and flavored whiskey. Craft beer "would probably be the biggest area of growth," Wycoff said.

But while Wycoff tries to stock products that are new and exciting, people always go back to what they're comfortable with. And that means beer, which makes up 50 percent of Wycoff's business.

"We replaced our existing [beer] cooler that was approximately 50 years old with a brand new cooler," he said. Besides keeping beer at a lower temperature, the refrigerator is more energy efficient than its predecessor.

Besides a larger inventory, Wycoff has also continued -- and hopes to expand -- wine tastings.

"I think the biggest reason I do them is to create a fun atmosphere for the people that come and also offer something different to do in the evenings," Wycoff said. "It's community awareness ... and community activities."

Wycoff plans on starting wine tastings again in the fall.

"I'm trying to do more off-site wine tastings. Now we've got a new convention center, BenLee's has a wine license now. We've been doing them at the Dayton House -- the Dayton house has been the best success."

Treading the line between community leader, businessman and health expert, Wycoff notes, "A glass of wine a day -- of good red wine -- they say is still good for you."

But the municipal liquor store's short-term success under Wycoff's management seems to only make him more driven: the year-by-year numbers point to the the business' potential to have a greater impact in the city of Worthington.

"You can't get comfortable. You have to want more," Wycoff said.

Veasey Conway
Veasey Conway is the Night Editor at the Daily Globe. He attended Carleton College and graduated in 2012 with a degree in American Studies. He has interests in photojournalism, documentary photography, journalism 2.0 and community journalism. He is originally from Cambridge, Mass., but has also lived in Gloucester, Mass., Cairo, Ill., Cairo, Egypt and Minneapolis. He tweets and keeps a photo column/blog.
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