Bristol Beverage expands, offering more selection

BRISTOL — A local beverage retailer has expanded, just in time for the holiday season. Bristol Discount Beverage and Redemption Center, known as simply Bristol Beverage, has added additional space and added to its stock of beer, wine, hard cider and local foods.
“I’d be kidding if we could grow with just beer and wine sales,” owner Adam LaPerle said. “That’s why we expanded to cider, cheese and meats. We want more local stuff here.”
LaPerle is a Middlebury native and has owned the business, located in the Shaw’s plaza in Bristol, for seven years.
Previously, the building was divided into two sections — the beverage store was one side, while LaPerle rented out the other side as retail space. When a tenant moved out in June, LaPerle decided to knock down the wall separating the spaces and expand his store.
He said the goal of the expansion was to capitalize on the west facing windows’ exposure to downtown, and to use the natural entrance to the building.
“We explored getting another tenant, but midway through the process I thought, ‘This is the time to expand,’” LaPerle said. “What I love is the entrance and exposure to downtown Bristol.”
The new space has been used to display the store’s extensive wine selection, which LaPerle estimates is over 600 different brands.
“We’ve opened space up on the wine side for the holiday season,” LaPerle said.
He said he plans to make other improvements, like replace carpets and rearrange shelving, once the holiday rush is over.
Despite being located in a small town, Bristol Beverage sells 15,000 cases beer and cider per year — no doubt because of the store’s large selection of craft beers.
“Vermont does the craft thing very well,” LaPerle said. “People shop for fancy beers like they shop for wine.”
LaPerle said he has been unable to capitalize on the craze for one popular craft beer.
“We can’t get Heady Topper anywhere in Addison County,” he said.
He has, however, been able to take advantage of the surging popularity of cider. Bristol Beverage sells local ciders like Woodchuck, as well as other domestic and foreign brands.
“It went from a salesman asking us three or four years ago to carry Woodchuck to us carrying three to four shelves,” LaPerle said. “It went from six-packs of Woodchuck to 12-packs, to six-packs of imported ciders and other domestic ciders.”
LaPerle said that large bottles of cider, which often hold around 22 ounces, are popular among customers.
“Customers treat the bottles of cider like they do a bottle of wine,” LaPerle said.
To accommodate this trend, LaPerle displays the large cider bottles like he does wine — on wood shelves that are angled so customers can easily read the labels.
LaPerle also said the fact that customers are more health-conscious has driven cider’s popularity.
“People are more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies,” he said.
LaPerle has over a decade of experience in beverage sales. Before opening Bristol Beverage, he was a salesman for Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury. At his Bristol store, he employs five full-time employees and four part-timers.
LaPerle said his customers are a mix of regulars and newcomers.
“It’s a small town — I recognize a lot of folks, and there are a lot of new faces,” LaPerle said. “Customer service is big for us; we’re not a chain store.”
In addition to food and beverage sales, LaPerle said his business also offers party planning.
To LaPerle’s credit, customers have noticed the expansion — he said a customer compared his store to the Winooski Beverage Warehouse, the massive store in Chittenden County.
Moving forward, LaPerle said he wants to expand his selection of local meats and cheeses. Currently, the store carries products from local food producers like Isham Brook Farm in Lincoln.
“We’re trying to build past the cheap, salty thing and be a one-stop shop for people headed to a dinner party,” LaPerle said.
LaPerle said he is open to the idea of selling liquor at his store, but he said it is difficult to obtain permission from the state, since the Department of Liquor Control operates all outlets.

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