Bucking the trend: Olympia liquor store owner finds success

The co-owner of a former state liquor store in downtown Olympia said Monday that despite tales of financial woe from dozens of other new former state store owners, his store has found a comfortable financial niche.

Andy Thielen, co-owner of T Brothers Liquor Lodge, said his operation doesn’t share the money issues that plague other former state stores.

Many of those store owners are complaining they’re going broke under a heavy burden of taxes and fees in the newly privatized Washington liquor business.

But Thielen, who with his brother Mike owns the store at 417 Plum St., said their marketing efforts have helped them find a loyal clientele.

T Brothers carries more than 1,000 different varieties in its wine section the former state store owners created within the larger store. Thielen said that variety of wine is likely the largest in Thurston County.

The store offers wine and beer tastings every Thursday evening to introduce customers to new varieties of the two beverages. Admission to the tastings are $8 with a $2 coupon found on the T Brothers Facebook page.

Since the state privatized the liquor sales and distribution business in June, he said, T-Brothers’ liquor sales have been growing at a gradual pace. Wine sales, however, have increased at a more rapid rate.

That privatization was prompted by the passage in November 2011 of Initiative 1183.

Private owners bid more than $31 million to acquire the rights to operate 167 former state stores. As many as 50 of those stores may no longer be in operation.

That same initiative opened the flood gates to new retail liquor sales locations with more than 1,500 groceries, discount stores, drug stores and former state liquor stores now selling spirits. Those former state stores are the only stores with less than 10,000 square feet of floor space allowed to sell liquor.

Many of those former liquor store owners have formed a new association to lobby for changes in the laws that govern liquor sales they say would eliminate the advantages large chains have in competing with them.