- May 19, 2020
Living for the happiness of employees and customers.
The Panwala family has run the Lincoln Hotel in Trevose for two decades, and two years ago, they added nearby Suds – a Lincoln Highway institution that specializes in beer, wine and cheesesteaks – to the fold. Heady Times spoke with Purvi Panwala, a member of Suds Beer & Wine Store’s management team and board member of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAOHA) about preserving the local landmark and improving customer experiences.
Heady Times (HT): Tell us about your background. How long have you been in the industry/at Suds?
Purvi Panwala (PP): Technically, I started out in the hospitality industry from birth, as my mom was nine months pregnant with me while cleaning rooms. As I grew up and saw my parents managing hotels, running a business became second nature. After graduating from Drexel University, I decided to go into the family management business and use the knowledge I gained to expand and refine our business. Our family has been supporting the community by running The Lincoln Hotel for over 20 years now, but we have owned Suds Beer & Wine for only two years. When I joined the family business, I told myself I would go into it 200%. Now, years later I find myself speaking at the UN about sustainability and women in the industry, speaking at universities regarding young professionals and sitting on the board of the one of the world’s largest hospitality organizations.
HT: Have you made any changes to the store? How has your selection changed over time?
PP: The previous owner created a local landmark with this place and I’m proud to say that I can be a part of that history. After the acquisition, we improved technologies but have kept most of the place the same, with a seasonal selection of beers, IPAs, crafts and a variety of wines.
HT: Have those changes brought in new customers? New types of customers?
PP: My favorite part of this business is when I can bring a part of someone’s history back to life. When someone walks in and says, “Wow, I remember this place! It’s been 30 years!” I feel a responsibility to preserve that memory for others, with maybe a slight elevation in experience. Now that Origlio and other vendors have helped us adapt over these two years, we are able to work on esthetics and look forward to making the customer experience better every day.
HT: What sets you apart from other establishments? What keeps your customers coming back?
PP: I live for the happiness of our employees and customers. If we don’t have a product that someone wants, I’ll make sure we get it. We don’t just get to know our customers and what they like: our customers are like family to our team and we get to know and help them in personal situations. We love our community and do whatever we can to help them, including sponsorships and donations. Having the best cheesesteaks in the area helps too.
HT: How has Origlio helped your business?
PP: Origlio is incredible! In my 12 years of running businesses, I’d say Origlio is one of our top vendors. Our sales rep, Brian Doyle, has always been available for us when it came to reorganizing the store. If we have any issues, Origlio rectifies the problems right away, and Brian always looks out for our best interest with honest answers. Even though I didn’t have a background in beer or retail, he was able to break down details and information to give me the data I need to make the right decisions for our business. He is one of the best sales reps we’ve ever worked with. I look forward to growing the business alongside Origlio.
HT: Which packages have dominated your sales these last couple months?
PP: Seasonal beers have been selling well, but trusted brand names are what most people are buying right now. People are looking for brands they depend on.
HT: Have you seen a shift to larger packs?
PP: We’ve had a lot of customers looking for big packs. We’re seeing the same trends as grocery stores, lots of larger packs, especially in the earlier days of the pandemic.
HT: Have you seen a change in the length of time people spend shopping in your store?
PP: People are spending less time in the store in general. We have seating in the store where people used to sit and enjoy a beer, maybe a cheesesteak and chit-chat, but that’s not happening now.
HT: What has been your biggest surprise in package sales?
PP: [laughs] People come in asking if we have liquor now! Of course we can’t help them with that. But there haven’t been too many surprises. We have so many loyal and consistent customers, and they’re looking for comfort. If you’re stressed or want to relax, you want to grab your favorite beer.
HT: What are your customers’ biggest concerns? Cleaning, employee/customer protection?
PP: People are more appreciative than concerned right now. They trust us to take care of them. The other day, it stopped me in my tracks when a customer said thank you so much for being open. And I thought, we’re just a beer store. But for regulars, we can help keep that routine in their lives when things are uncertain.
2401 Old Lincoln Hwy., Feasterville-Trevose • 215-638-8100