By Heidi Zemach for SCN
A new liquor store where you can drive up to the window to purchase cigarettes or coffee began operating on the outskirts of town on Seward Highway and Exit Glacier/Herman Leihrer Road recently. It’s a new establishment for the area, but the liquor license has been owned by Wesley Sherrill of Moose Pass for 30 years, who ran the Moose Pass Inn, and MPI Liquor. Wesley’s two grown sons Wesley and Troy, who were born and raised here, established, and are running the new store for their father, after the recent death of their mother Linda in December.
The name “Sak Town” Liquor (formally Seward Alaska Liquor Company) comes from “Seward A.K.” and is what the kids they grew up around used to call town, says Wesley Sherrill. So that explains all the local guys running around with Sak Town tattoos.
Since opening, Sak Town Liquors has been getting a good, steady business. It’s a good deal busier than the business their parents had in Moose Pass, and they expect the trend to continue as they work to make improvements to the new building and its offerings, Sherrill said. They’re creating an attractive sign that will draw people’s attention to the business while blending in with the new building’s décor. The 22,000′ building was built by Jim Conant, a fine carpenter, who also has a cabinet workshop in the back. The younger Wesley Sherrill remodeled the liquor store’s 420-square-foot interior portion he leases, and built the drive-through window. Sherrill realized afterwards that they will not be able to sell liquor from his drive-through window, as he was informed that those who sell alcohol must be able to tell if a customer is impaired. So those who want to buy liquor from Saktown must park and walk into the store. The rest of the building may one day be used as a fine dining restaurant, or for a variety of other uses yet to be decided, he said.
Their plan is to benefit by being both close to town residents, and to residents of the outlying subdivisions. A place where people can find some interesting craft beers, or microbrews from across the state and country, and wines from a variety of area wineries. They realize that they can’t hope to compete with the liquor store at Safe-Way for all the major brands of beer, but they believe they can carve out their own special niche with the more select microbrews and specialty wines. Also, they hope to provide them at decent prices.
“It’s about being honest, marking the beers up the way they should be marked up, keeping prices as steady as you possible, giving people what they pay for, and getting them what they want,” Sherrill said. To that end, they aim to be responsive to their client’s desires for what to acquire for the store, he said. Already, they are getting deliveries from four separate company’s trucks. One product, for instance, is a wine in a pint-size recyclable container with a screw off lid, which cruise-ship passengers appreciate as they won’t be charged a corking fee, he said. Wesley is awaiting a shipment from the Bear Creek Winery in Homer including its popular strawberry rhubarb wine, and their blueberry wine.
They can also compete with the Pit Bar, a block away, with their wider selection and careful pricing. They believe people will favor a liquor store that they can walk into, and make their own choices, rather than having to ask for something over the counter. The Sherrills plan to build a large walk-in freezer next, where customers can get themselves cans, or even kegs of ice-cold beer. They already have an edge over in-town liquor stores or businesses as they don’t have to charge city sales tax.
“It comes in handy because it’s close to the house, I like the prices and I’m just glad it’s here,” said customer Tim Ziebart.
The greatest challenge of the new business, Wesley admitted one evening, is fatigue. He works construction throughout the day, then relieves his brother Troy, who runs the shop during the day, to keep the store running for the evening shift. But it’s a challenge he is happy to do if that’s what it takes to get the establishment running, out of the red, and on its way to realize their dream.
“We’ve slowly seen an increase since (opening) July 3rd, and were getting the siding up on the building slowly but surely. We’re really happy about it. My dad’s really happy about it, and it’s helped take his mind off of things,” Wesley said.