When voters passed Initiative 1183 in November, voting to privatize the state’s liquor stores, Michael Shemall of Kennewick saw an opportunity.
Shemall, who operates the online wine store www.hookedonwine.net, and his business partner Rajiv Malhan, quickly started researching if they should try to buy out existing state liquor stores or start from scratch.
“Our original intention was to take over (the state’s liquor) stores, but then we looked at the leases and the lease rates were astronomical,” said Malhan, a contractor and owner of RM Construction and Interior Design.
Shemall said the last thing they wanted to do was to “buy a broken wheel.”
“They were too small, have too little selection and the lease rates are too high,” Shemall said.
The partners have leased a 15,500-sq.-ft. retail space at 1711 George Washington Way Suite 399 – next to Office Depot and a 14,500-sq.-ft. retail space at 731 N. Columbia Center, the former All Gymnastics location.
Both locations are near state-owned liquor store.
Shemall said they plan to open the Richland Mid Columbia Wine & Spirits in June and the Kennewick location in July. They plan to open a third Mid Columbia Wine & Spirits in November in Walla Walla, but the location has not been leased yet.
The stores, which will be some ten times larger than the state-owned liquor stores Washington residents have become accustomed to, will offer far more variety, as well, Shemall said.
Shemall said the stores will offer 3,000 to 3,500 different wines, up to 5,000 types of liquor and thousands of types of beer.
The large selection of liquors will also give them an edge in competing with the area big box stores, which also will be expanding their wares to include liquor.
Shemall said Costco will likely stick to selling the most popular brands of liquor in addition to its own Kirkland Signature-label liquors, which it already sells in several states, including California and Texas.
Shemall said the company is also reaching out to area wineries so they can offer as many local wines as possible too.
“We are calling them and letting them know that we are in town and want to have their wines on our shelves,” said Shemall.
Shemall also wants to reach out to local microbreweries and distilleries.
The stores will also offer tasting classes and wine and beer tasting events on weekend evenings.