- October 4, 2018
Expertise + Innovation = Success.
You know the old saying… good things come in small packages. This old chestnut describes Bryn Mawr Beverage to a T. This compact, bustling beer distributor in the beautiful Montgomery County town for which it’s named, is thriving thanks to the sharp minds of co-owners John Bongiorno and Pete Lockard. The two industry vets have assembled a strong team, which includes store managers Greg Eiseman and Matan Freedman. Utilizing innovation and expertise, the four guys run a successful, cutting-edge business.
Heady Times (HT): You have created a dream team of sorts. What strength does each employee possess?
John Bongiorno (JB): Because it’s a small store, we only have four employees, including myself. But these guys are great. We all work really well together and we each bring something different to the table. I worked in the internet wine business and owned a restaurant before I bought this place, so I have a lot of beverage experience. Pete worked for Gretz Beer Co. for a while, so he understands the wholesaler side. Greg is a Level 2 Certified Cicerone, who knows a ton about beer and Matan went to the Micro Matic Dispense Institute to learn all about draught beer and equipment. Collectively, we have a ton of knowledge to share with our customers.
HT: You set up the store by style. Why?
JB: My background is in wine, and that’s how liquor stores do it. It just makes sense to me. Beer drinkers know what styles they like, and more often than not, they come in looking for a particular one. Each aisle is clearly marked with signs hung from the ceiling, calling out the style, so they’re easy to find. And chalkboards line the top of the walls highlighting all the different beer styles with descriptions and food pairings for each.
HT: What else have you done to create a shoppable atmosphere?
JB: We keep most of our beer on shelves (those that aren’t in the 5-door cooler or walk-in). It’s a well-lit, clean and comfortable space, with heating & air conditioning and rubber floors for a comfortable shopping experience. This isn’t your typical, warehouse-looking distributor. We also keep it extremely organized. We’ve learned that organization keeps customers from becoming overwhelmed or frustrated, and it allows us to stay on top of our inventory.
HT: The layout makes this store unique, but you also have a 10-tap draught system!
JB: We do! As soon as the 12-pack law passed, we had the system installed. Each line is dedicated to a style, and we almost always offer nine beers and one cider. All are available for growler and crowler fills.
Above the draught system, there’s a live tap list shown on a TV screen. It’s also available on our website, so customers can see the selection whenever they want, in real time.
Greg Eiseman (GE): People can also check-in on Untappd when they’re in the store, and it will show up on the screen. In addition to the names of each beer, the live list includes each product’s description, ABV, customer rating and brewery name & location.
JB: Greg’s our social media guy. We are very active on Untappd, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
GE: It’s a great way to connect with our regulars and reach potential customers. It’s important to stay visible and broaden our customer base. We want to keep people interested, without bombarding them, so I’ll post 3-4 times a week; things like new, rare releases and samplings. We also like to share our slushy flavors. They’re a big hit.
HT: Slushies? Tell us more!
JB: We’re one of the first distributors in the area to purchase slushy machines. Having them right next to the register allows for add-on purchases. We always offer three different flavors. Sometimes we mix them, and we’ve found some great combinations. Mike’s HARDER Lemonade is a big hit and we’re thinking of trying hard seltzers soon. The slushies even sell well in the winter. Whether college students or older adults, our customers love these things!
HT: Speaking of college students, the store is surrounded by five college campuses. Are underage shoppers an issue?
Pete Lockard (PL): We don’t let it become one. We are extremely diligent about checking I.D.s. We use a scanner and an I.D. checking guide and we’re looking into purchasing a UV counterfeit detector. We work closely with the township and law enforcement to protect ourselves and the community from potential underage purchasing. We also took part in the Cops in Shops program, which unites law enforcement with alcoholic beverage retailers to prevent underage alcohol purchases.
HT: Which tools that Origlio offers do you utilize the most?
PL: Online ordering is great. Not only do we use it to place our beer orders, I always have it open on my computer as an easy way to check the availability of a product.