- December 24, 2018
How an outdated drive-through’s new, flexible format successfully transformed the store.
When Jim Carter purchased Ambler Beverage Exchange in 2012, he understood that his store would have to continuously adapt to the ever-changing preferences of Ambler’s population. With a younger generation moving to the area, Jim and store manager Brendan Hill have had to revamp Ambler Beverage Exchange more than once. But ask them if it was worth it, and they’ll tell you, “One hundred percent.”
Heady Times (HT): What’s the history behind Ambler Beverage Exchange?
Brendan Hill (BH): I’ve been here for a little over three years. Jim [Carter] has been at the helm for six. It’s always been a beer distributor, but it used to be a drive-through. The business was changing, and the drive-through model wasn’t all that popular anymore. So, the owners decided it was time to move on. But, Jim knew there was still a need for a beer store in Ambler, so he seized the opportunity and here we are today.
HT: If this used to be a drive-through, then you’ve undergone some serious changes.
BH: Oh yeah. We gutted everything. The idea was to make it a pleasant place to shop; a friendly place where everyone feels comfortable. Concept-wise, we took a place that sold 30-packs and cases and turned it into a one-stop-shop. We’ve committed a ton of space to six-packs and single serve fridges. Now, we’re seeing a lot of craft drinkers come in for 16 oz. can four-packs, which are huge for us. So, 16 oz. cans now have their own section.
HT: How else do you see customers changing the way they shop?
BH: We’re learning what they want. Initially, we tried to give them everything we thought they wanted. But it’s better to learn and listen. Whereas in the past, people were fine just driving through and picking up their case, now people want to shop. They want to come in and look around. When I was growing up, the typical beer store was a giant cavernous, cold space and you were encouraged to get in and get out. There weren’t a lot of choices. But now, there is so much more beer to choose from, and people seem to want this type of store. Instead of spending five minutes buying beer, without even getting out of your car, they’re spending 15-20 minutes looking around.
HT: Would you say customers are buying more beer, but in smaller packages?
BH: Don’t get me wrong, we have our regular customers who come in for their two 30-packs once a week. But with the law changes, allowing smaller package sizes for the customer, we’re seeing repeat customers wanting all package sizes. The law change has been good for business, but it’s been great for the customer. We used to have customers come in and buy a case of Heineken. Now, we see those same customers come in and get a six-pack of this, a six-pack of this and a six-pack of this. It often costs them a bit more money, but the customers don’t seem to mind. What that tells us is that they really want variety. We embraced it from day one. We had the six-packs up and ready to go the day the law changed.
HT: How does Ambler Beverage Exchange serve the community and how do you give back?
BH: Because there’s no shortage of things to do in Ambler, a lot of young people are moving in, who have kids or are going to have kids. They’ve created a young and lively environment in this town. And I feel like the store is a large part of the community. Not to sound egotistical, but I think this store is something that was needed in town, and I think it’s valuable to the people of Ambler. We’re always sponsoring basketball & baseball teams, and we do a ton of donating to local events. Jim has always wanted this to be a place where people come in and feel good, and that’s the environment we try to create for our customers every day.
AmblerBeverage.com • 239 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA • 267-470-4854