Total Wine & More opened on South Beach last week to long lines. The mega wine and spirits retailer's newest location, at the Fifth & Alton shopping center (1139 Fifth St.), features over 14,000 spirits and wines and a growler filling station in a 19,105 square-foot space.
The Maryland-based spirits superstore started with one small shop in Delaware in 1991. Now, the company boasts over 120 stores across 17 states, with more expansion planned. At the helm of the company are David and Robert Trone. The brothers are co-owners in the company, with the two growing the company by using a simple philosophy of offering a vast selection of product at competitive prices and backing that up with a knowledgeable staff.
David Trone, co-owner and president of Total Wine, says that the difference between his stores and other places where you can stock your home bar is the "wow" factor you get. "When you walk in the door you’re going to immediately go, 'wow this looks like an adult Toys R Us'.
"You notice the size of the store, the great merchandising, and you realize the selection is the best in America with over 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits, and 3,000 beers. Then you realize the service is spectacular with trained team members who know about single malt scotches, Bordeaux and Tuscany. Of course the biggest difference is the best prices in town."
Trone says that the reason why his stores are welcomed into communities while other big box retailers might get the cold shoulder is the extras."Generally big box retailers, while they might have the lowest prices like Total Wine does, they don’t have the best selection, the don’t have the most beautiful upscale store with many unique features". Trone is quick to point out store amenities like a wine tasting bar, education rooms where customers can learn more about wines and spirits, and the brewery district with its growler refills.
But the biggest asset to the company is the knowledgeable staff sporting white shirts and ties. "It’s all about the customer. Having the best price is not enough. Having the best selection is not enough. The real key to our success is the best service and that’s all about people. If we invest in our people they know about the products. The vast majority of our service and management team have been to many vineyards whether in California or Europe, that gives us a big edge on taking care of the customer."
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Everything the company does is to ensure the best possible experience for people, whether they come in to find a seasonal beer for tailgating or to stock an entire bar. "If we’ve practiced customer centricity with everything we do, putting the customer first, everything else takes care of itself. "
Even though the store is called Total Wine, Trone, who started in the beer industry, has made sure the store's beer selection is vast, stocking the shelves with both rare imports and local craft selections. Although the much talked about AB InBev - SABMiller merger looms large, Trone says the future of beer is really in the hands of the craft segment.. "We know the beer business inside out. Right now America has two major breweries and the AB InBev – SABMiller merger will not change that because it will spin off the MillerCoors piece to be owned either by the current by management team or perhaps sold to someone else, but we’ll still have those same two major players in the US after the merger happens.
"Craft beer is on a success trail that’s not to stop in our lifetime. Right now the craft beer market is approximately 15% of sales. I believe that’s going to continue to grow as there are two new craft breweries opening up every day. American’s are buying local, craft beer is local, and craft beer has tremendous premium products. We love to partner with the craft beer brew masters all over the country. We are far and away the national leader in craft beer. Over the next decade sales will likely double."
Finally, with all that wine, beer, and spirits ripe for the taking, what is Trone's drink of choice? "A left bank Bordeaux or a Napa Cabernet." And if, the Total Wine president were to be stranded on an island with any one bottle from the shelves of his store, he'd choose wisely. "First I’d request a case of water but after that a bottle of Chateau Lynch-Bages 1990, the birth year of my daughter Julia."