Buster's Liquors and Wines
For the last 61 years, third-generation family-owned Buster’s Liquors and Wines has been a Memphis libation landmark as Tennessee’s premier wine and liquor outlet. Founded by R.M. “Buster” Hammond Jr. in 1954, Buster’s has grown into the largest spirits retailer in the state — stocking more than 10,000 items. In the wake of major market changes, Buster’s is now making way for a 6,000-square-foot expansion to increase its product offerings and to house a broad and regularly rotating selection of traditional and specialty wine, liquor, beer and complementary products.
It’s more than selection that makes Buster’s one of the best in the business; the company is also known for friendly, knowledgeable staff. Buster’s has been recognized as one of the Top Ten Wine Shops in America by Wine Spectator’s Market Watch Magazine and is continuously ranked No. 1 Best Wine Shop and Liquor Store by the Memphis Flyer’s reader’s poll – 22 years and running.
Big changes in store
As Buster’s rounds out 61 years in business, Josh Hammond, third-generation president of the operation, says there are big changes in store for the company. “For the last 60 years we’ve primarily been a wine and spirit retailer, and we also got into high-gravity beer, which is anything above 6 percent alcohol by volume,” he says. “But in the last year, there have been some big changes in our industry as the result of a referendum known as the WIGS [Wine in Grocery Stores] Bill that passed in November 2014.”
While grocery stores in Tennessee have been selling beer for years, the referendum, which passed by a unanimous vote, will allow grocers to carry wine by July 2016. “This new legislation certainly poses challenges for us, but it also opens a whole window of new opportunities,” explains Hammond. “Before, we were limited in our product line to just wine, liquor and beer, but now we’re allowed to sell a whole range of new items including Yeti Coolers and tumblers, stemware, fine cheese and meats, crackers and other appetizer foods, nonalcoholic mixers and beverages, chocolates gift bags, beverage accessories and much more. We’re moving toward being a one-stop-shop for all party needs.”
Room to grow
Hammond says the July 2016 mark for grocers has given Buster’s time to adjust its business model, bring on new products and gear up for its most recent major expansion. Still based in central Memphis, Buster’s has launched a total remodel and extension of its existing 10,000-square-foot store. “We’re looking at late October 2015 for completion and when all is said and done, the store will be 16,000 square feet,” he notes. “It’s been awhile since we’ve done such a serious expansion and remodel and we’re excited about the transition.”
Not only will the new-and-improved space include more storage for Buster’s broad wine, liquor and beer assortment, but also tasting areas on the floor to showcase new and specialty items and a growler station which has been “very popular,” says Hammond. The expansion also includes a climate-control room for higher-end wines. “Collectors are demanding this these days,” adds Hammond. “We’ll also have a free-standing humidor to stock cigars.”
But Buster’s core business still remains in the largest selection of beer, liquor, wine and local libations in the state with the longstanding slogan “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!”
“Bourbon is king in Tennessee — we carry many specialty labels and it continues to be one of our top-selling spirits,” says Hammond. Buster’s broad selection changes regularly, incorporating new products and special editions.
“Recently we had the Frank Sinatra Jack Daniels Tribute Bottle, which retails at $160 and is only sold in Tennessee,” says Hammond. “We also sell a number of staff-selected single-barrel bourbons: approximately 20 in total. Jack Daniels Single Barrel is another one. We go through eight to nine single-barrels of Jack every year.”
“One of our popular picks is the Eagle Rare from Buffalo Trace; that is another one we buy as a single barrel,” he continues. “Buffalo Trace also released their limited Experimental Collection. They have about 1,500 going on that get released in small batches. French Oak is my personal favorite. There is a range of different recipes and collections. It’s very rare.”
The wine business is still booming. “As far as wine, popular varieties lately have been pinot noir, rose and moscato,” adds Hammond.
Hammond says Buster’s e-commerce business is growing as well. “Online ordering is growing and we’ve also started our own delivery service with our own logo van that is very helpful for parties and events,” he says
Falling back on family, longtime customers
Despite expansion, the company has maintained its down-home family feel. “As president, I oversee operations management, systems and personnel and working alongside me is my brother, Morgan Hammond, CEO of Buster’s,” says Hammond. “My brother deals with ordering and financing.”
Hammond, his brother and his father have all received awards from the acclaimed Wine Spectator Magazine, including recently best website. But it’s not this kind of recognition Hammond says the company strives for — that would be its longstanding relationships with customers.
“We really value customer loyalty,” says Hammond. “We have customers who have shopped here for generations. People come in and you hear them say, ‘My grandfather shopped with you, my parents as well, and so I’m shopping here too,’ That’s the part that’s really rewarding.”
“All in all, it’s a true testament to our loyal employees to whom much of our success is attributed,” adds Hammond. “Employees who smile, greet, and say thank you for shopping with us.”
Just as by R.M. “Buster” Hammond found when he started his namesake company, when one door closes, another opens and Buster’s is embracing new opportunities and building on longtime relationships. After 61 years in business, like a fine wine, Buster’s Liquors and Wines Inc. continues to get better with age and is poised for what the future holds.