Gary Dinges/Bloomberg Business – “It’s like Toys R Us for adults.”
That’s how David Trone describes Total Wine & More, the liquor store chain he co-owns. Founded in 1991, the Maryland-based company now has more than 100 locations coast to coast — including several in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in San Antonio.
After years of eyeing Central Texas, Total Wine & More debuted its first store this week in Sunset Valley at 5601 Brodie Lane. Work is already underway on a second location at 11066 Pecan Park Blvd. in Northwest Austin, and the chain expects to open at least three more stores here. The Arboretum area, in particular, is appealing, Trone said.
“Austin’s the hottest city in America,” Trone said. “It’s got great growth, great education and a great food and wine culture.”
The Austin area also has the state’s highest per-capita alcohol sales, a recent American-Statesman analysis found. In 2013, average alcohol sales were $523 per person in Travis County — almost twice as high as the runner-up, Dallas County.
Total Wine & More would have been here sooner, Trone said, but a lack of available real estate slowed the company down. New figures from Savills Studley, a commercial real estate firm, showed Austin-area retail space was 93.5 percent occupied at the end of the first quarter. Big-box retail spaces, in particular, are hard to come by — and with stores that measure around 30,000 square feet, including classrooms and tasting stations, that’s exactly what Trone and his team are searching for when they look to enter new markets.
In Austin, the Total Wine & More stores, which carry more than $2 million in inventory apiece — 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers — are going up against two well-entrenched competitors. Locally based Twin Liquors has almost 80 locations statewide, with most of them in the Austin area, while Houston-based Spec’s has about a dozen Central Texas stores.
“There’s wonderful competition throughout Texas, but we feel like Total Wine brings something new,” Trone said. “We’re here to help you find the right bottle at the right price for the right occasion.”
David and Margaret Jabour, whose family has led Twin Liquors for generations, said it’s not surprising companies such as Total Wine & More would want to locate in Central Texas.
“Our family has watched Sixth Street develop from a dirt road into the Live Music Capital of the World,” they said in a written statement. “Central Texas is a vibrant and growing community, and we understand why new businesses find it appealing.”
In Texas, most liquor stores are local or regional, like Twin Liquors and Spec’s, making Total Wine & More a bit of an oddity, retail consultant Jeff Green said. Still, he said the chain has managed to make a name for itself in a relatively short span of time and is growing rapidly. This year, the company will add more than a dozen locations nationwide.
“They are, to me, the very best in terms of merchandising for wine, beer and liquor,” said Green, president and CEO of Jeff Green Partners. “They’ll do just fine in Austin.”