Peabody’s newest business is a retail liquor store at the southwest corner of Walnut and Second streets. E & J Retail Liquor opened Friday evening as scheduled, but with a skimpy inventory that made owner Rebekah Carter shrug.
“If I had looked for a worse weekend to open up, I don’t think I could have found one,” she said.
Peabody was one of many central Kansas communities buried under nearly a foot of snow from Wednesday and Thursday’s storm. Carter’s order, which was to be delivered on Thursday, could not get through.
“We were able to get a beer delivery and some of the liquor order Friday,” she added. “We are hoping this next round of bad weather will be gone by the time the delivery truck comes next Thursday.”
This is Carter’s first experience as owner of a retail packaged liquor store, although she worked for quite a few years at Hill’s and Anderson’s liquor stores in Newton.
She said she decided to open the business because it was something she knew how to do it and because she is raising two grade school-age grandchildren.
“This is an investment that I hope will provide a living for us,” she said.
Carter hopes that she can eventually move to Peabody and give her grandchildren the benefits of small-town living and the individual attention that comes with a smaller school.
Carter is leasing the building that houses the liquor store from Gene and Sharon Schmill. An area was walled off just inside the front door to sell soda, cigarettes, tobacco, and snack items.
“By law, only liquor sells with liquor,” Carter said. “Nothing else can be sold with it. So the enclosed area at the front is like a separate store.”
When Carter began looking for a community that could support a liquor store, she contacted Shane Marler, Peabody economic development director.
“We were glad to have the interest in a liquor store when Ms. Carter inquired about it,” he said. “We already knew from information provided by the Kansas Small Business Development Center that a lot of money was being spent elsewhere on alcoholic beverages.”
Marler said the KSBDC compiled the information from a “ring” study in which they draw a ring around a given address, in Peabody’s case, city hall at 300 N. Walnut St., and they get a radius from that address.
“They found that in a five-mile radius, there is a liquor store demand of $104,500 annually,” he said. “Zero percent of that demand is being met locally so we have 100 percent leakage. What that means is that everyone goes somewhere else to buy it because they can’t get it here.
“Filling that retail gap would generate $9,152 a year in sales tax. And our residents are already spending their dollars elsewhere on the product and they will continue to do so if they can’t buy it locally,” Marler said.
Carter said she thought it might take time for some people to shop locally for liquor.
“But I really feel it will be all right. I’m patient, I’m friendly, and I enjoy meeting people,” she said. “I have hired local people and I will be here off and on during the week. I hope the snow eventually quits and people come in to meet us and give us a try! We can’t ask for more than that.”
E & J Retail Liquor is open seven days a week.