How Omaha’s Spirit World Has Become an Industry Influencer
A highly knowledgeable team and personalized service earns Spirit World a 2021 Drizly Top Shelf Retailer Influencer Award.
At Spirit World in Omaha, Nebraska, going above and beyond for customers and serving as their expert go-to resource for all things beer, wine, and spirits is standard fare.
For example, when the spirits manager, who manages store operations on a day-to-day basis, noticed an online order come in via Drizly from a regular customer, he jumped at the opportunity to personally deliver the product. He hopped on his motorcycle, secured the bottle in his saddlebag, and headed out. Why? He simply wanted to say hello and personally thank them for their order.
It’s just one of many examples that illustrates the personalized customer service and deep relationships that Spirit World has developed with their customers—and why this retailer has been recognized with Drizly’s Influencer Award among 2021 Top Shelf Retailers, given to those Drizly partners who have developed a following as the source for expert recommendations.
Evolving for a New Generation
Located in midtown Omaha, Spirit World is a wildly popular liquor store for locals. Winner of Omaha Magazine’s “Best of Omaha” for over 10 straight years, it’s one of the only independent retailers in town offering the best wines, beers, and spirits from around the world.
Laurie Hellbusch was a longtime regular customer. Having grown up in the neighborhood, Spirit World was her go-to destination for a healthy lunch and great wine.
“I was a lawyer working for a corporate law firm. I wasn’t unhappy, but I knew I eventually wanted to do something I really loved. I was getting into food and wine as a hobby and starting to learn about whiskey,” recalls Hellbusch, now the owner and general manager. “I would go to Spirit World and learn from the staff. I used to take my grandmother there for lunch every other Friday.”
One day, Hellbusch was speaking with the owner, who shared that he was looking for someone to take over the business as he was eyeing retirement. The more they talked, the more her interest in buying the business grew. After three months of continued discussions, Hellbusch completed the purchase of the store in 2008. Her vision was to not only maintain Spirit World’s 48-year legacy, but also infuse new life and energy into the store for a new generation of consumers in Omaha.
Boosting Revenue With Delivery
Hellbusch joined the Drizly network as the impact of Covid-19 began to affect the retail industry last year—a decision that proved to be a game-changer for Spirit World.
“When we signed up with Drizly, we quickly saw a huge increase in deliveries, for obvious reasons. But even as online order volume declined [as restrictions were eased], Drizly never stopped,” she says. “It didn’t seem to really mirror the natural [economic trends] of the business. So, that was a great additional source of revenue for us as a supplement to what our natural income would have been.”
Before partnering with Drizly, delivery sales represented less than one percent of the store’s total sales. Drizly has helped to boost that figure to what Hellbusch projects will be six percent of total sales by the end of this year.
“The thing that is most notable is that we have a lot of regular customers that are [visiting the store] sometimes two or three times a week. They will still [place online orders] with us. When they know exactly what they want … they’ll use Drizly and order from us, often knowing who’s going to show up at their door with the delivery,” says Hellbusch.
Prioritizing Employee and Customer-Focused Education
Hellbusch and her team of 15 employees make everyday occasions memorable by offering their customers an invaluable blend of highly personalized service and unmatched knowledge of the 4,000 products in inventory. The ability to do so is made possible because she has prioritized hands-on training and continued learning for all staff.
“One of our core values that we really focus on is education, for both, our staff and our customers. So that’s one of those [competitive advantages] that I think really contribute to elevating our reputation, beyond just being a transactional liquor store,” says Hellbusch.
Learning is never a burdensome task for Spirit World’s staff, who excel at engaging their customers by speaking from firsthand experience.
“When we hire people, we often joke that it’s a job requirement to drink on the job,” says Hellbusch. “Every new product that comes in, we try to offer as many employees as possible the chance to taste it, and ask the distributor questions. There’s no better way to learn about our products—and pass that knowledge on to our customers—than to taste them.”
Another differentiator for Spirit World in the local market is the ability to provide on- and off-premise sales. An in-store bar allows customers to “try before you buy” if the store has a new product open. Their tasting events also give customers the chance to learn about products in-depth, driving an experiential sales process.