Try as they might, the triumvirate at Nine West Marketplace in Goldsby, Okla., just couldn’t get the beer drinkers in their small Oklahoma town to help themselves to the brews in the beer cave.
"We tried everything under the sun to get them to go in there," said Carri Moore-Colwell, one of three owners at Nine West convenience store, a year-old venture that sits on a slit of Interstate 35 an hour south of Oklahoma City. "It’s been a challenge to get them to walk in the door. They think it’s only for employees; they’ll be hesitant to walk in there."
The beer cave concept, it seems, was not a feature Oklahomans were accustomed to seeing in their food stores. At least not in Goldsby. "It’s very unique for Oklahoma," Moore-Colwell said.
A year and a smattering of carefully positioned "Beer Cave" signs in their wake, Moore-Colwell and co-owners Sheri Harris and June Yarberry have seen their customers gradually adapt to the self-serving pleasures of the brew room.
The incremental success of Nine West’s beer category didn’t come overnight for the trio, nor did the store’s monumental success. It was eked out with dogged persistence and ingenuity, a skill set the three owners have spent most of their lives honing.
All three are single mothers of teenage children. Two were raised on farms. One drives a Harley Fat Boy. They’ve known each other for 25 years, and they’re anything but conventional.
"We’ve always had to figure out how to handle life and make a living," Yarberry said. "There’s not much we can’t do—we just do it."
Building a Business
Nine West Marketplace sprung from the mind of Moore-Colwell in August of 2006, about a month after the grand opening of Oklahoma’s largest gaming facility, Riverwind, a Native American casino just west of Goldsby’s Interstate 35 exit. Goldsby is a town of just 1,500, but the nearby interstate and State Highway Nine weave thousands of travelers through its core each day.
When the casino came to town, Moore-Colwell saw a chance to ride the wave of business that was sure to follow the 219,000-square-foot behemoth.
Her vision was flawless. In its first month, Nine West saw $198,000 in sales, including gas receipts. Less than a year later, inside sales alone were $124,000, not including fuel. In its first 10 months, the store tallied $4.5 million on all fronts.
"Honestly, I wanted to open a liquor store," Moore-Colwell admitted. The 1.25-acre tract she picked to develop is 1,000 feet from the casino. "I couldn’t put a liquor store on an acre and a quarter. That’s a lot of land to waste on a liquor store."
The business, which opened in July 2007, boasts 4,000 square feet of in-store space and Shell fuel. The group teamed with Oklahoma pizza-maker Tometti’s to offer made-to-order pizzas in-store, and they’ve partnered with World Wrestling Entertainment announcer Jim Ross, an Oklahoma resident and owner of JR’s Family Bar-B-Q, to promote Ross’ line of beef jerky and barbecue sauce.
The nearby casino and its torrent of concertgoers and gamblers ensure a daily flow of energy drinks, lottery, beer, tobacco and beef jerky passes through Nine West’s doors every day. The store has a deli with made-to-order items like hamburgers, French fries, calzones, burritos and chicken fried steak, and a handsome supply of food staples to supply locals who would otherwise drive to nearby Norman, Okla., for groceries.
Nine West is open 24 hours, save for closing from midnight to 5 a.m. on Mondays.
"We don’t get a lot of sleep, but we all enjoy it," said Yarberry. "Basically, our business is customer service. Our store is clean and friendly, and it’s the same employees here all the time. Our customers all know us and we know them.
"Our customer base just keeps on growing," Yarberry said. "It’s just surprised us how much our business has grown."