With wine finally for sale in Tennessee grocery stores, you might think this would be a bad time to open a new liquor store in Chattanooga.
Chris Ross disagrees.
"It's a wonderful time to open up a liquor store," said Ross, the general manager of Chattanooga Wine and Spirits, which opens next Tuesday at 8 a.m. at 6804 Shallowford Road.
Chattanooga Wine and Spirits can beat supermarkets, he said, because it will offer a wider selection of liquors, wines and beers, including 24 beers on tap to fill growlers. The store also will stock cigars in a humidor and offer tastings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays of beer, wine and liquor.
"This will be the largest liquor store in Chattanooga, pretty darn sure," Ross said of the new 11,980-square-foot building near Rain Thai Bistro and the Champy's Chicken that opened Monday near the intersection of Lee Highway and Shallowford Road.
People who've been inside the soon-to-open liquor store tell Ross, "I haven't seen that [brand] before."
"That's what we want to hear," he said.
There's a wide range of prices, with wines starting at $2.99 for a bottle of Cul-de-Sac to $399.99 for a bottle of 2012 Verite La Joie cabernet sauvignon from Sonoma County, Calif.
Ross, an East Ridge native who's got 25 years' experience in liquor retail and distributing, got interested in wine while attending Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. He's visited wineries and met winemakers in California and Australia.
"Our focus will be on new world wines," Ross said, "Napa and Sonoma, that's really what we're going to focus on."
Tennessee wines, beers and, of course, whiskey also are highlighted, from the Nashville-made Black Belle Imperial Stout, the store's most expensive beer at $25 for a 22-ounce bottle, to fifths of single barrel Chattanooga Whiskey.
The new store will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., at least initially. That would let third-shift workers from the Volkswagen Assembly plant stop by on their way home from work, Ross said.
"We're five minutes away from Volkswagen, we're 12 minutes away from downtown, seven minutes away from Ooltewah," he said. "I think we'll get people from all over."
Some liquor store customers come on their doctor's recommendation.
"People do come in for their 'heart wine,'" he said. "Four to eight ounces, it's supposed to help."
Liquor stores can branch out now, he said, and offer such things as tastings and a wider selection than ever. Some stores have embraced the changes, Ross said, while others haven't.
"If you don't change with the times, you're going to be left behind," he said.
The liquor store's four owners invested about $3 million in the new building and inventory, said Scott Patel, who's first cousin to Mitch Patel, owner of Vision Hospitality Group, a Chattanooga-based company that owns and manages hotels. Scott Patel said the four investors, who include his brother and two close friends, put the liquor store business under their wives' names.
This story was updated July 13 at 1:30 p.m. to indicate that the East Brainerd location of Champy's Chicken opened Monday.