Buster's Owners Savor Sweet Taste of Wine

by Kate Miller
Memphis Business Journal, May of 2003

In its 35 years at the corner of Poplar and Highland, Buster's Liquors & Wines has established a reputation as the place that has everything.

The reputation has been well-tended and enhanced by multiple expansions and product additions that have resulted in a 10,000 sq-foot store with a 7,000 item inventory.

Chief operating officer Josh Hammond says expanding the store's selection was a priority for his father and company president Rommy Hammond, who has ceded day-to-day operations to his children, Josh, Morgan, and Anastasia Hammond.

"Because we can only carry wine and liquor there weren't many ways to expand your business, so he expanded the selection," Josh Hammond says.
With so much to choose from and case discounts, Buster's customers rarely buy one bottle at a time and are encouraged to load up their shopping carts.
Buster's has already expanded seven times and plans to add another 6,000 square feet as soon as possible.

"We're a little landlocked right now with the businesses beside us," Josh Hammond says. "Hopefully in a couple of years we will be able to expand the store again."

In addition to more floor space for the liquor store, Josh Hammond says he would like to open a wine bar where his staff could teach classes and customers buy wine-related accessories.

"There are a number of things we could do to create a complementary mix to the business we have," he says.

As the store has passed to the next generation, it has upgraded technology to better deal with the volume of customers it now has. The store has a network of 12 PCs online to handle purchasing, ordering, researching and sales. The store also maintains eight phone lines and runs credit cards through a T-1 connection. With a three-second credit card approval return, the cash registers can make up for an undersized parking lot during peak times.

"The efficiency of having a PC-based system to do research to check your sales, check your purchases to create orders, has just been unbelievable," Josh Hammond says.
Lines that used to stretch 45 people deep at six registers on Christmas Eve now go no more than five people deep on five registers, he says.

Rommy Hammond used to eschew integrating modern technology into the store, saying his "girls at the cash register are quicker than the machines."

Buster's customers come from neighboring streets and neighboring states, a rare combination according to Shields Fine Wine and Spirits owner and wine expert Shields Hood.

"I think he's both of them and most stores are not," he says.

For Buster's, volume and variety go hand in hand. A reputation for variety draws customers, and those customers allow the store to maintain variety.

"It's hard to find something he doesn't have," Hood says. "He just gets so much volume that he gets a little of everything."

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