For Small Business Week, we tapped into our own community and interviewed the owner of one of our favorite McKinney small businesses, McKinney Wine Merchant. He offers insights into competing with big box stores and how a genuine interaction with customers keeps them coming back week after week.
Business name: McKinney Wine Merchant
Owner’s name: Andy Doyle
Number of employees: 1; just him
Hours of operation: 11-9 Tuesday-Saturday; 12-4 Sunday; Closed Monday
Years in business: Five
Q: Why did you open the McKinney Wine Merchant?
“I lost my job in 2010 and saw there was an opportunity in downtown McKinney.” There was a wine store in Plano that he visited all the time, but when it went out of business, Andy saw his chance to open a wine store on the square in downtown McKinney.
Q: What makes you unique?
“I’m selling things people are unfamiliar with to make them comfortable with the wines. There are wines out there that are tricks and I don’t do them. I’m a very honest wine store.” He doesn’t sell brands you’d typically find in grocery stores. He sells “real wines,” each tasted and approved by his expert palette. Here are an astounding 225 wines in the store.
Q: How did you get the word out when you first opened?
“Facebook and put together an email list. The first year was just text emails through Outlook. Putting out lame emails had me putting out fewer emails. I put more lights out front [of the store] and had the door open when the weather was good.”
Q: How do people usually find out about your business?
“Word of mouth is by far the biggest way. I’ve also done some print and some radio.”
Q: What does your online strategy look like?
“When I named the store, part of the thinking was to be at the top of the search results. I get about 50-80 views per month on Yelp. Out of that I will about 8-10 interactions per month. I have great Facebook and Yelp reviews.”
Q: What are some of the struggles you face as a small business owner?
“The ever changing environment. I can’t offer coupons.” TABC prohibits coupons for the purchase of liquor. “I can’t do fun promotions or discretionary discounts. Any tasting has to be done during ordinary business hours.” He can’t host after-hours tastings or happy hours or even on-site glasses of wine. Additionally, there are some big box stores very close by that have taken some of his sales: Trader Joe’s, Total Wine and even direct sales. But his business keeps growing.
Q: How do you compete with bigger box stores?
“Ignore them and do my own thing. I’ll select a few popular SKUs and get a competitive wholesale price on them and lowball them [the big box stores].”
Q: What advice do you have for other small business owners?
“If you’re interacting with people, they really respond to a genuine personality that’s not rehearsed. People know that at my stores it’s a very genuine and honest approach. It’s the sort of store I’d want to shop at. No one could ever accuse me of stickin’ it to them.”