When I shop for wine and liquor, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I browse the aisles in wide-eyed wonder, enjoying the variety of shapes and colors and imagining the tastes and smells hidden within every bottle. Although wine and liquor stores must carry the same old standbys in order to survive, most will offer some uniqueness that reflects the proprietor’s vision of how his or her business will succeed and the niche it fulfills within the community. Is it a mega-store offering major brands at discount prices? Or is it a boutique wine shop with personalized help selecting just the right wine? One of our favorite stores in our old neighborhood advertised their Great Wall of Beer featuring single bottles from microbreweries across the US and the world. As I enter Joe Canal’s in our new neighborhood, I land in the heart of California red wines, with Nickel & Nickel, Trefethen, and Silver Oak residing center top shelf. We also enjoy checking out liquor stores when we travel, even if our plans don’t allow us to purchase anything.
At our local Joe Canal’s, greeted by the 7-feet tall Captain himself and a fanciful Captain Morgan Christmas tree.
Admittedly, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not the best of times to be leisurely browsing the aisles of Joe Canal’s. We’re keeping our exposure to a minimum, only going out for essential shopping while wearing masks and gloves. Gone are the days of reading the bottle neck tags and shelf talkers, hunting for close-out bargains, and finding obscure wines from Italy or Greece. No more perusing the cordials, cognac, tequila, gin, and rum for a package that piques our curiosity. Welcome to a new way to shop.
We tend to buy in bulk, so we hadn’t been to Joe Canal’s since before quarantine. I was pleased to discover that they have a system for keeping customers out of the store and still providing us with our alcohol needs. (Yes, I say “needs” and in my opinion liquor stores are essential businesses.) Besides the obvious goal of keeping everyone safe and healthy, this new way of doing things has its advantages. I called the store and was given an email address to place an order. Within an hour or two, an employee called me back with a couple of questions (i.e. we don’t have the 1.75L size, is a 750ml o.k.?) A few minutes later, she called a second time with the order total that I could pay over the phone with a credit card. I called the store when we arrived in the parking lot and had a good laugh as I overheard the delivery person being told he would need to get the hand truck for our order. All items were neatly loaded in the back of our car with the receipt taped to one of the wine boxes.
How can I complain about curtailing my liquor store wanderlust when it has been replaced with an efficient personal shopper and car loading service?