TX - General manager transforms gas station into craft beer destination
General manager transforms Flower Mound gas station into craft beer destination
By ADAM SCHRADER
Joseph Hendrix started as a clerk at Whip In, a gas station at 2240 Morriss Road in Flower Mound, in 2005. Hendrix was going to go back to college but decided school was not going well. He turned his clerkship into a full-time gig, becoming general manager in April of 2006.
After the promotion, Hendrix started to offer craft beer at the gas station — becoming a prominent, if unlikely, craft beer retailer serving Flower Mound and its surrounding communities.
“I’ve found a handful of beers I like now, like a Belgian Trippel that a vendor introduced me to,” Hendrix said. “But I’m not really a beer-drinker.”
Hendrix said he’s “not there to buy the stuff or drink the stuff,” but to make money for the store, like any good manager.
“If your location isn’t good for the everyday stuff, you’ve got to look for other stuff, outside of the box. It’s just good business practices,” he said. “You can’t be stagnant. That’s all there is to it.”
Whip In now carries about 800 different beers. A normal gas station might have 40 to 50 beers to choose from, Hendrix said.
By bringing in craft beer, Hendrix says the overall sales performance of the store has doubled. Whip In sold $1,900 worth of alcohol last Thursday when a new shipment arrived. Total sales last Thursday were $3,400, which is normal, meaning alcohol sales are consistently more than 50 percent of his business. Gasoline sales are now secondary in his operation.
Beer prices average about $8 for large bottles and $10 for six packs. One beer, Brut Des Flanders, sells for $34 for a 750 milliliter bottle. Whip In also sells 3-liter specialty bottles for $120.
Hendrix introduced the products when he first took over, long before the boom hit the craft beer scene.
“The first thing you do [when you become a manager] is clean up the store,” he said. “It was a mess, but after it was all reorganized, I got bored.”
To ease his boredom, Hendrix started looking at what products were selling. Many products weren’t, but beer seemed to be flowing off the shelves, he said. He decided to bring in more beer.
When a Budweiser distributor walked in and asked to restock the store’s coolers, Hendrix realized Whip In didn’t need two doors of low-end beers.
“I had been doing invoices and knew we didn’t sell much of the beers like Keystone Ice,” he said. “So I narrowed it down to one door, using the second to sell crafts, imports and things like that.”
He partnered with more distributors and the beer selection expanded — now consuming most of the sales floor.
The first beers to fill that second door came from breweries like St. Arnold and Sierra Nevada — brands a lot of stores carried. Hendrix asked his distributor to bring in some unique beers.
“He sent me Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale, 22 ounce,” he said. “I was like, ‘It’s $4.50. How am I going to sell this stuff?’”
Hendrix realized customers didn’t mind the high prices, and the beer flew off the shelves. He started asking for more unique beers, just a few at a time. But each week offered something new and the coolers started filling up fast. The more beer he had, the better sales were. He decided to ask one of the distributors, a guy named Roger, if customers would buy warm beer, which led to him stocking beer on the shelves.
The popularity of craft beer at Whip In remains steady despite the fact that chain stores and liquor stores are now stocking them. For example, Kroger may now carry some of the more exotic beers, but Hendrix says that only helps fuel consumer interest in the products at his store. The closest craft beer retailer is Lonestar Taps and Caps in Carrollton, which opened up a new location in Lewisville, but is too far away for him to worry about.
Hendrix, realizing how many parents were bringing their children into the store as they shopped for craft beer, decided to offer craft sodas for the kids. Now, the craft soda selection takes up two cooler doors.
“If you’re going to drag you kid around to the gas station that has all the beer, why not pick out a soda?” he said.
Whip In also sells merchandise from local breweries like Denton’s Armadillo Aleworks.
“Whenever we would get a new brewery, I would ask if they could bring me some glasses. It gets their names out there and people like them,” he said. “Profit-wise, I might do better with more beer, but where else can you get a pint glass from a brewery for about $2.”
Dan Reece, 34, has worked at Whip In for a year. He loves trying to tell people about the local breweries.
“There’s a large demographic that buys craft beer here,” he said. “It’s not just hipsters. We even have old ladies buying craft beer.”
One customer wrote in an online review of the store on beeradvocate.com, a craft beer forum, that the only reason he found Whip In was because one of the store’s tweets came up in a Google search for where to find a new craft beer that had just arrived in North Texas.
“I can't believe I literally drove by this place all the time for many years without ever realizing the great selection of craft beers hidden away inside,” he wrote. “As it turns out, this modest little gas station stocks one of the best selection of craft beers in the whole area. If a beer is available in DFW, chances are they’re going to have it.”
“I spent enough money that the wife is still [angry],” another user wrote. “Can’t wait to visit again.”
Lewisville/Flower Mound editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188 and @schrader_adam on Twitter.