Founded in 1960, Bauer Wine & Spirits has been serving the people of Boston for six decades. The alcohol industry has changed vastly since then, but Bauer remains a staple of the city thanks to a combination of top-notch customer service and a willingness to evolve with the times and adopt new technologies. 

Delivery has long been an essential part of Bauer’s business, but since partnering with Drizly, the shop’s delivery sales have increased significantly, as the platform has enabled Bauer to expand its delivery route to more neighborhoods and reach new customers.

BevAlc Insights spoke with Howie Rubin, the store’s general manager and wine buyer, and Matt Wluka Switkes, Bauer’s director of operations, to understand the keys to Bauer’s lasting success.

BevAlc Insights: How has the alcohol landscape changed over the last 50 years?

Howie Rubin: The core remains the same. It’s still about service — it’s always been about service — but the bells and whistles around it have changed. You still have to be able to talk to people and service people. The reason we’ve been around this long, I can put it in one word, and that’s trust. You build that trust, you’ll have it for as long as they’re in the area. 

How do you develop that trust with your customers?

Rubin: People trust you to do the right thing by them, trust you to give them wines that they don’t have to think about too much. They need to know you’re going to get it right, that your prices will be good, that your service will be on time. 

I have a lot of people that call up and say: Mix me a case of wines: Six red, six white. I want to spend $15 a bottle, or $40 a bottle, and just drop it off at the house. That’s what sets us apart. We have these kinds of relationships with people where they don’t even have to shop. They trust us to get it right and then they come back to us and say, do it again.  

When did you start offering delivery?

Rubin: We’ve always done delivery. It’s been the heart of our business. We offer free delivery with certain restrictions, which sets us apart. It’s really worked for us when people have been homebound. They know they don’t have to come to the store. If they need their supplies, they’ll get it, usually within an hour to two hours. 

What prompted you to become a Drizly partner? 

Matt Wluka Switkes: Drizly has helped us reach a different demographic, a younger demographic that’s more used to on-demand service. They can open up an app, have it delivered, and they don’t have to pick up a phone and call somebody. Mostly, we were doing downtown Metro Boston, but in the last three to six months, we’ve opened up to new avenues, such as the South End, North End, Charlestown; we’ve found different areas on the map where we can reach different demographics, different people, and it’s really helped to increase our number of deliveries on a weekly basis. 

Since partnering with Drizly how has your business grown?

Wluka Switkes: Our delivery is up about 30 to 45 percent since partnering with Drizly a few years ago. 

What makes a Drizly retailer particularly successful?

Rubin: Everybody’s got wine. Everybody’s got good wine. It’s how you relate to people, how you build relationships, and how you succeed in your execution. That’s what sets you apart from other stores. That’s why I think our numbers have increased so greatly on Drizly, is because we’re getting the job done and people come back for more. 

Which tools or services does Drizly offer to help you optimize sales?

Wluka Switkes: Suppliers sometimes run featured promotions with particular brands that we carry, so that helps generate some excitement and people are finding new items, like Loverboy and High Noon this year. It’s great exposure for your store. 

Your store is located on what’s traditionally a busy, pedestrian street. What role has delivery played through the pandemic?

Wluka Switkes: We were doing probably 40 percent delivery pre-pandemic.  During the pandemic that’s increased to about 70 to 80 percent. Right now, it’s kind of balanced back out to 60 percent delivery. 

It’s the convenience of somebody being able to order on the Drizly app and the easy way to search and find products. Just like shopping for groceries or people using other services, buying alcohol has become very easy as far as picking up your phone, picking out your items, and having it delivered. Also, the scheduling component of Drizly is really great because if they’re not going to be home and they’re not sure if they can be there for that delivery, they can schedule it to the time that works around their busy day. 

How do you ensure you’re providing an excellent customer experience and that orders are delivered on time?

Rubin: Sometimes we get a lot of orders at once, but we know when the peak hours are and we always have extra staff on, and an extra car on. For local delivery, we actually have someone walking so that we don’t fall behind. Whenever we can walk, we walk. When we hit peak hours, we have bicycles going and two cars going. You need to do that or you’re going to fall behind and you’re not going to be able to earn the customer’s trust. 

Boston is a unique market filled with college students and international tourists. How does Drizly help you find the top-selling items in your market?

Wluka Switkes: In our reporting tools, we have the Top 10 best-selling items and our Top 10 most popular items. I track those on a weekly basis to see what’s selling well, what’s dropped off a little bit, what the trends are, what we’re carrying, and what we’re not carrying that other stores may have. I’m constantly on Drizly looking at the different products that are out there. 

What do you expect to see in terms of alcohol delivery in the future? 

Rubin: Some people were literally amazed through all of this that we still managed to get them their deliveries in a timely fashion. There are customers that used to come in all the time that we haven’t seen since January, but they’re ordering just as much as they would in the store. They’re so comfortable with the Drizly app, that that’s going to be the new normal, I think.