Locals Aims To Stand Out In Crowded Industry
BERLIN — Combining convenience with selection and a willingness to go the extra mile, Locals Beer and Wine aims to stand out in the industry in the Ocean City area and to eventually become its own thriving brand with multiple locations.
“Our target is 12 stores so we definitely plan on expanding,” said Greg Fields, managing partner for Locals.
The current location off of the eastbound lane of Route 50 about two miles from Ocean City has been open since June of 2012 and has been the prototype for how Fields envisions future Locals Beer and Wine stores. It has proven itself a success over the last year by bringing in strong seasonal numbers as well as consistently loyal locals, he said.
“The first summer was pretty good. It showed promise. And going into the winter was, just like everyone else around here, we were a little worried,” Fields said. “But local business just kept coming in. We had no reason to close the doors. Hit the spring and our numbers were climbing very quickly. Come this summer our numbers are double and triple of what they were last year.”
A lot of that likely comes from convenience. Fields pointed out that Locals is the only dedicated beer and wine store that can be reached easily on the eastbound lane before Ocean City, a convenience that improves exponentially when traffic begins to snarl in the summer.
“We are the only beer and wine store from Cambridge to here on the eastbound lane,” he said.
Fields also attributes the boom to the store’s attempt to stay ahead of the curve in the crowed beer and wine industry. Instead of just stocking traditional popular wines and beers, Fields endeavors to have an unparalleled selection for a store of Locals size. The wine selection runs the gamut from $4 bottles of common brands to rare vintages worth up to $650.
“I also make sure that I carry those exceptional wines,” he said. “I go to all of the tastings. I don’t miss any of them. And I try to add to our portfolio every season.”
Unlike a convenience store, Fields wants Locals to develop a reputation as a “serious wine place” as well as somewhere to find a healthy selection of popular and craft beers. And if Locals doesn’t have what the customer is looking for in stock, Fields will order it.
Value is another area where Locals wants to be an industry leader, he continued. Because of Ocean City’s seasonal nature, prices on beer and wine can run above average.
“This area has been charging a lot for a long time,” said Fields.
Fields promised that Locals avoids marking products up in the summer and has “consistently lower prices” than many competitors. This is on top of Locals’ traditional sales and end-of-season blowouts, Fields added.
After staying open year-round last year and finding success, Fields confirmed that Locals will do so again come this fall. The only days the store closes are Christmas and New Year’s Day. Depending on how well business keeps up through the end of the summer, Fields said that a move to add the next Locals’ location could begin within 12 to 18 months.
He wasn’t sure if that next store will remain around Ocean City or if it could cross the bridge into western Maryland, but eventually the goal is to have a dozen or so stores all over the Delmarva area. The stores will all follow a similar blueprint, though Fields said that future spots will likely be larger and could offer more than just beer and wine; things like liquor and food might join the menu at other Locals’ operations.
“Each store has to be, again with the name, catered to its locals,” he said. “If something sells better here, maybe the other store sells more of that. I’ve got to cater each store to each community.”