Stocking the shelves: New package store leaves room for community input

Ginna and Gene Donnelly, owners of G&G Liquors, stand behind the store’s wine tasting table with manager Karen Ott. Trumbull’s newest package store, located at 6528 Main Street, opened its doors on April 8 as part of the Village at Long Hill Green commercial development. — Steve Coulter photo
Ginna and Gene Donnelly, owners of G&G Liquors, stand behind the store’s wine tasting table with manager Karen Ott. Trumbull’s newest package store, located at 6528 Main Street, opened its doors on April 8 as part of the Village at Long Hill Green commercial development. — Steve Coulter photo

There’s something special happening on the shelves at G&G Liquors. 

Call it a spiritual revolution or maybe it’s just a revolving door of spirits — beer, wine and liquor.

Whatever the case may be, owners Ginna and Gene Donnelly and manager Karen Ott have adopted a philosophy of business expansion based on customer demand, rather than imposing their own tastes and preferences.

And the new system seems to be working just fine — after only two days of business, G&G Liquors had more than 30 suggestions from incoming customers that ranged from a Connecticut white wine to a Hungarian red.

“We have room to grow based on what the customers are requesting and what they want to drink,” said Gene, who was one of the developers of the Village at Long Hill Green commercial property located at 6528 Main Street before he sold his share to open a business for himself.

“We know what we like, but we didn’t feel comfortable — having never been in the business before — thinking that we knew what everyone else liked,” Ott said. “We’re happy to ask and we’re happy to take suggestions. It’s a customer service business, and we’re looking to be customer-friendly.”

After getting the necessary approvals from the town of Trumbull and from the state’s liquor commision in Hartford, the Donnellys — Gene co-owns the business with his sister Ginna — and Ott had to decide on what distributors they’d use to fulfill their model for a full-service package store with an emphasis on wine.

Choosing a beer distributor wasn’t hard because there are only a handful in the state of Connecticut. However, finding the right wine providers proved to be a bit more of a challenge.

“We started courting these different distributors with the idea that we wanted to keep it simple. We didn’t want to have 40 of them, we wanted to have about a dozen,” Gene explained.

G&G settled on 15 distributors that have helped them design the unique concept and make their vision for the business a reality.

“They were really excited about it because it was different,” said Gene, who lives with Ott in Easton right on the Trumbull border. “They liked that we were going to be customer-centric, so they went out of their way to help us with the design of the store, the stocking of the store, and be part of this experiment in the liquor industry.”

The future of booze

Part of the store’s foundation is an investment in a state-of-the-art point-of-sale system that doubles as an entry point to process a customer’s requests for certain products and also tracks consumer trends — only if the customer wants to be part of the process.

“If you’re buying Magic Hat, for example, I will ask for your email, and if you decide to give it to us, then you’ll get a personalized email that tells you when our next craft beer taste testing is going to be,” Gene said.

“We can do that with anything,” he added. “This isn’t about inundating your inbox with a bunch of email blasts, it’s very targeted, and once people get comfortable with it, then we will be able to give you a notification when we have a certain product before it sells out or even before we put it on the shelves.”

G&G Liquors believes this “experiment” of being a store that gives people what they need while simultaneously making them aware of what’s going on in their specific alcohol industry, whether it’s beer or wine or spirits, is an untapped model that will yield endless satisfaction for customers.

“If you start buying beer here, I will know within in six months what kind of craft beer you like and how often you buy it, and I can make recommendations based on that information,” Gene said.

“It’s all about being able to ask the customer, ‘Do you like what we sold you the last time?’ and figuring out if they want to try something new,” Ott added.

Resistance to change

The owners of G&G Liquors understand their might be some hesitation about this new model of shopping for spirits, but they insist that it will help all sorts of customers, ranging from the twenty-something craft beer drinker to the middle-aged wine connoisseur.  

“A lot of times I’ve brought a bottle of wine and I forgot the name of it or where it was made,” Ott explained. “Instead of asking yourself, What was that? and never knowing, we’ll have all that information available for you if we have a record for you.”

“We’re not going to do anything with the information,” Gene added. “We’re only looking at your sales in our system, and if you don’t like it, then you can just say, ‘Don’t email me anymore.’”

The store’s website, which is still in development, will have rotating banners that promote various new items in stock on the shelves.

With an emphasis on transformation, the store owners want customers to know they’ll always be in full supply of familiar names like Budweiser and Oyster Bay.

“If they don’t want to look around, they can walk right to the back cooler, which it’s easily set up for them, and they can be out of here very quickly,” Ott said.

“We have space for wanderers — people who want to walk around and look at the different wine or beer selections, but we wanted to make sure that the customers who come in for the same thing two or three times a week don’t have to bother with any of the aisles and displays,” she said. “It’s a really comfortable space, and that’s our goal — to be opening and inviting.”

Wine is fun

The Brooklyn natives bring a simple message to the residents of Trumbull: Wine is fun.

“Our message is, Wine is about fun and about family and about creating memories, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money,” Gene said.

It can also be accessible.

G&G Liquors will deliver wine to customers in Trumbull, Easton and Monroe who order more than $50 worth of alcohol.

“What we’re trying to do is be customer-centric,” Gene said. “We want to carry the things that the market wants to buy, we want to encourage people to try something new with our emails and our wine and craft beer tastings, and we also want customers to be able to get their product. …

“We’re stocked purposefully, and that’s so people can get what they like and also make a request of something we should carry,” he said.