Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics - March/April 2017

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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Page 11 of 87

C harles Sonnenberg knows how to capture consumer interest. In the past, his three-store chain of Frugal MacDoogal stores has been known to entertain cus- tomers by bringing a live elephant to the store parking lot, hir- ing musicians to play piano music in stores, and even having mimes perform for customers waiting in checkout lanes. However, many things have changed in the 30+ years Sonnenberg has been part of the industry. The days of retailers simply being able to open their doors each morning waiting for cus- tomers to arrive and offering the same products as everyone else are long gone. Diverse product lines, increased compe- tition and unanticipated legislative changes all have forced retailers to up their game and fi ght to hold onto their place in a more competitive market than ever before. Because of Sonnenberg's business savvy and his ability to forecast how future changes will impact his business, he's man- aged to stay a step ahead of the competition and maintain Fru- gal MacDoogal's position as a top beverage retail destination. ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES Sonnenberg, who previ- ously held an on-premise license before entering the retail side of the in- dustry, has always been a bit of a trendsetter. He opened the fi rst Frugal MacDoogal location in 1983 in Nash- ville, Tennessee, in an era when the concept of a big-box liquor store was virtually unheard of. After several years, Sonnenberg was ready to expand the Frugal MacDoogal brand. However, Tennessee law does not allow package store chains, so Sonnen- burg set his sight on other states. He ultimately opened a sec- ond Frugal MacDoogal location in Fort Mill, South Carolina, in 1990. A second South Carolina store opened in Columbia in 2004. Over the years, Sonnenberg has witnessed many shifts in the industry, and he's learned to stay on top of the changing tides in order to remain as competitive as possible. "I've seen some remarkable things," he recalls. "It used to be that we had two or three brands accounting for 80% of any particular category. These days at any given time, we have 35 - 40 craft gins alone. We see that the consumer has very different expectations compared to the consumer of years past. Also, through the evolution of technology, consumers and retailers have access to a plethora of information, which requires retail- ers to be more informed and invested in the industry." With the boom of areas such as the craft beer industry and a focus on education, consumers are now more aware of product offerings and distinctions than ever before. Although Sonnenberg's chain of Frugal MacDoogal stores is spread out over multiple states and cities, he is quick to point out that none of the locations are identical in terms of appearance or product selections. 12 Beverage Dynamics • March/April 2017 OF THE GAME PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF ASHMILL PHOTOGRAPHY How Frugal MacDoogal Remains a Top Destination Despite Industry Shifts BY MELISSA NIKSIC STAYING AHEAD

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