Boulder’s local businesses are part of the area’s identity and sense of community, from craft breweries to wineries to restaurants that grow, utilize, and value local products. When local businesses thrive, the community’s whole business ecosystem thrives. Boulder is proud of its local businesses and, as in the case of Hazel’s Beverage World, the feeling is mutual.
“Boulder loves independent, unique businesses,” says Bruce Dierking, a Colorado native, University of Colorado Boulder alum, and founder and General Manager of Hazel’s Beverage World. Hazel’s has been open since June of 2012, boasts a massive selection of wine, beer, and spirits, hosts events and tastings in-store each week, and is an open, spacious, clean, and easy to navigate liquor store built with the overall experience of the customer in mind.
Independently owned since its inception, Dierking and a business partner purchased the hangar-like warehouse at 28th and Pearl Streets here in Boulder originally as a real estate investment. However, the 2008 recession made property ownership difficult even at such a desirable location.
“No one was renting buildings during a recession, even at such a great location,” says Dierking. Turning their sights to starting a business as a solution to their real estate issue, Dierking drew from the personal shopping experiences of his wife, Carleen, and found a need in the area for a comfortable place in which to buy the beers, wines, and liquors, that Colorado and Boulder specifically are so well known for. Seeking to steer clear of the common conception of the liquor store that is historically synonymous with disarray, cramped aisles, and floor to ceiling shelving, all making for a claustrophobic and unpleasant shopping experience, they drew off their own experiences, researched, and networked with retailers in the area to come up with their vision of what a liquor store could and should be. With the help of additional partners from the industry brought on to help get the store off the ground, the Hazel’s that came to be is a clean, welcoming shopping environment meant to be a safe place where any customer feels comfortable perusing the aisles.
The store itself is a large, warehouse-style space with 76 cooler doors and over 6,000 square feet of chilled space in which to store their products. With a wealth of local, domestic, and imported wines, beers, and spirits, the store has bountiful selections. Instead of following the quintessential retail philosophy of using every square inch of store space for merchandising, Hazel’s chooses not to overload their space, keeping aisles wide and lines of vision open and clear for the customer.
The store offers a huge variety of products but, as Dierking would describe it, is also quirky and a little bit different. Incorporating an aviation theme throughout, the store features a model airplane hanging from the ceiling and images of Hazel herself, a strong female character who is the focal point of the store’s personality and branding. While common conceptions often point to men being the target customers at liquor stores, Dierking and company challenge that, and Hazel symbolizes an empowered woman and, more broadly, an empowered shopper who is entitled to a positive shopping experience.
In the state of Colorado, retail liquor licenses are limited so that each company may only operate one store location per company in the state. This creates a level playing field for all companies looking to sell liquor, and it allows for the existence and prosperity of local, personable establishments, such as Hazel’s, that can truly cater to and form strong ties with the community. One advantage of a store of Hazel’s size is its accessibility to personnel and management, which makes for a healthy ecosystem in which other small businesses can thrive as well.
“Craft products are huge for us,” says Dierking. Representatives from Boulder and Colorado’s many small craft breweries on the cusp of the next step in their growth can walk into Hazel’s and speak directly with a manager about getting their products on the shelves. Business relationships can be built immediately and steadfastly. New, creative, adventurous products can be put onto the shelves quickly and partnerships can be formed based on mutual success and sustainability in the relationship.
This focus on community is likewise apparent at the individual customer level and the amount of attention Hazel’s pays to all community members who pay them a visit. For instance, at their weekly tasting events, Hazel’s caters to a wide range of Boulderites.
“There is a young population in Boulder that is still finding out what they like,” says Dierking. From customers who have recently turned 21 coming into the store asking, “What is a merlot?” to patrons hoping to have a taste of the new and intriguing pumpkin gin before committing to a full purchase, attendees get a restaurant-style, upscale tasting experience. Nothing is haphazard at Hazel’s, and Dierking says that employees revel in being educators to the community.
Hazel’s is also fully committed to their staff, offering profit sharing plans to employees so that when the store prospers, they prosper. Describing his team as a group that believes in the store and feels that they’re “in it together,” Dierking is committed to running a business that fosters buy-in from his work force, customers in his community, and local business partners. Hazel’s is a member of the Boulder County Independent Business Alliance as well as the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.
Hazel’s is a prime example of a local, independent Boulder business that enriches the town, gives back to the community, and adds to Boulder’s regional identity. Hazel’s proactively facilitates the successes of the local businesses around it, preserving, protecting, and fostering the area’s local business ecosystem.
Hazel’s is a staunch supporter of the Keep Colorado Local movement, and likewise offers a quarterly Drinks magazine and tasting party planning resources. To learn more about Hazel’s and their products, events, and rewards program, like them on Facebook or visit their website.