Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics Jan-Feb 2016

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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The retail space, redesigned in 2004, is 24,000 square feet and boasts three fl oors. It has a basement wine cellar, a main fl oor of hard-to-fi nd spirits and exotic liquors from all over the world, a comprehen- sive selection of North American microbrews and a walk-in beer refrigerator with more than 1,000 beers from 25 countries. The third fl oor is offi ces. Including family members, Hi-Time has 50 to 60 em- ployees, some of whom have been with the company for decades (a receptionist has been there over 20 years and a bookkeeper began when she was 15 and is now in her 50s). "They feel like family," Hirst says. The older customers have known Hirst since she was a child. Now their kids are customers, and their kids' kids are customers. Hirst began working at Hi-Time at the ripe old age of six. "We had an ice machine and I recycled soda bot- tles with my brother, Keith. We generally drove everybody crazy," she says. In high school, Hirst ran the registers, and in college worked on ordering bulk jugs of wine. Later, she took on more responsibility from her dad, Fritz, who is semi-retired. "He still comes by here at least four times a week," Keith says, "and he is actually pulling orders here as we speak." When he's not at the store, he's at his ranch fi shing. At 85, Chuch still works two days a week. He walks to work, then heads upstairs to look over invoices—on the day of our interview, he was sitting in one of six wine-buyers' of- fi ces, surrounded by 50 to 60 specialty wine baskets already being prepared for Christmas gifts. Chuck loves chatting to customers so much, he says, that when he descends the stairs for a cup of coff ee, he may not make it back up for a couple of hours. M A N A G I N G F A M I LY R E L A T I O N S H I P S As general manager and CEO, Hirst has tried to get out in front of family quarrels by encouraging each member to focus on a diff erent area of the business. Her son Charlie, 31, handles online sales and helps customers with high-end bourbons; Kyle, 28, helps open and close. Her nephew Jor- dan, 25, is into the beer side, managing keg-delivery systems and home setups. He also places orders, and handles mixers and sodas. Her brother, Keith Hanson, and his wife Tracy also work for Hi-Time. Tracy does the gourmet food buying. "She's gotta work somewhere, so we put her to work here," Keith chuckles, adding that she has worked there since she mar- ried him about 25 years ago. Hirst's cousin (and Chuck's daughter), Vicki, man- ages purchase orders and receiving. Her brother Don is the store's gardener and head of customer service. Keith Hanson, 56, son of co-founder Fritz Hanson and Diana's brother, has been head liquor buyer for 20 years. He and Tracy's two children, son Jordan and daughter Skylar, 23, work at the family business when not in college. "Only one of them will be working in the store; Skylar will be pursuing the medical fi eld," Keith Hanson says. "I hope Jordan will take over my area so I'll get more time off my- self," he adds. T H R O U G H T H E G E N E R A T I O N S Four generations of Hansons now work for Hi-Time, and Chuck says it's working well so far—but he is also cautious. "They say that after three or four generations, you'll fold," he says. Another family-owned wine store in the neighbor- hood ended up going out of business when the kids started bickering after their father died. "They sold to a big corpo- ration," he adds. After more than half a century, it's safe to say being a family business doesn't work for everyone, but it works for the Hansons. "You work a lot of hours, but you have fl exibility," Hirst says. "Being your own boss is very nice. When I go away, I know I have family I can trust and depend on." Sarah Protzman Howlett is a freelance writer and editor based in Boulder, Colo. A veteran of Condé Nast Publications in New York City, her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine; Prevention; Denver's 5280; and trade magazines across various industries. More Online~For more information about how Hi-Time competes with chains, maintains its industry relationships and cares for customers, visit generations. January/February 2016 • Beverage Dynamics 35

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