Small Business Success Story!
Rivertown Fine Wine & Spirits
2849 County Road 210 W #107 |
St. Johns 32259 |
When you meet the owners of Rivertown Fine Wine and Spirits, Frank and Bonnie Dvoravic, their easy-going kindnesses, common sense and humility shine through. When you walk in the store, everyone is greeted like an old friend and it is surely a comfort in these crazy times. Perhaps Rivertown is the closest thing to an old fashioned Mom and Pop store we have in our rapidly growing and changing community.
Rivertown has served northern St. Johns for fifteen years and during that time they have learned what it means to be a successful small business. Frank and Bonnie say their success rests on four main cornerstones; flexibility in offering customers what they want, giving back to the community through charity events, understanding how to be competitive, and high-quality customer service with their own unique charm. St. Johns Magazine asked them about how they have met the challenges of recent times, and what others may learn from their experience.
Reflecting on the past year - How has Rivertown adapted and continued to be successful in the age of Covid?
Fortunately because of the type of business we have, we were able to easily adapt to restrictions and guidelines for COVID. We required masks be worn, and provided them if customers did not have one. Early on, we offered curbside service and limited the number of customers in the store to accomplish social distancing. We have been blessed with the fact that we can continue to do business and feel very bad for the restaurants and bars that have been closed and forced employees out of work. We thank our customers for their continued support and we will continue to try to help those people less fortunate.
How has Rivertown been flexible in terms of what you offer to the changing needs and taste of the community in recent years?
We constantly review our assortment of inventory and delete slow moving items. This allows us to utilize that space for new, popular and high demand products. In the past seven or eight years, bourbon has been the focus of many customers. We carry over 100 different Bourbons, and seek out rare, hard to find bourbons, many of which go into our Annual Bourbon Auction in February. We also do single barrel picks that are provided to us and we are the exclusive retailer for those products. For example our last barrel picked, Elijah Craig 8 year-old, produced 250 bottles, bottled exclusively for RFWS. Another service we provide, that has been very successful is our ability to fulfill customers’ special order requests.
How and why has Rivertown made giving back a priority? What are the benefits?
We feel very blessed to have the customer base that we’ve had for almost 15 years now. May 22, 2021 we will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary. We feel it is important to give back to our community since they have given to us, and it has bonded our community. We are lucky enough to be able to financially support individual charities with donations when requests are made to our store. In addition our charity, Pancan (Pancreatic Cancer Action Network), has been our focus charity for seven years now. Bonnie is a 13 year survivor and we know how lucky we are. We have raised over $80,000 since 2016 and most recently in the first nine months of 2020 we raised $23,400 of that amount. We do this through our barrel picks where we add a small amount to the charity on each bottle and also selling hard to find Bourbons throughout the year with a small amount to the charity. In addition, our customers are constantly donating money into our charity jar on our counter.
How do you stay competitive?
We keep our prices as low as possible on all items in the store. We do this by buying in quantity. We have a warehouse with over 1400 cases in it and purchase most of our brands in 25 to 100 cases of each brand. This allows us to stay competitive with the other retailers in the marketplace. It has not been easy but with the quality service we provide, the cleanliness of our store and the large assortment, customers come back to us for items that the large chain stores don’t carry. We have a very good relationship with Publix next-door to us and if customers come in looking for wines that we don’t carry we can call their wine department manager and see if they do. They also will send customers to us for wine that they don’t carry. This helps all the customers in our community find what they’re looking for and builds our relationships with other businesses and our customers, and repeat business.
Your customer service is something that sets you apart - What is your philosophy regarding Customer Service?
I have been involved in the retail industry most of my life. I grew up working in my fathers grocery store, Joe’s Superette, in Pittsburgh, PA. After graduating college in early 1973, I worked for Maas Bros department stores for 7 years. Then I got involved as a alcoholic beverage sales person in Sarasota and that got me started in this business. Over the years I have witnessed many retailers close their doors because they didn’t understand what good customer service was. One of my favorite retailers to visit, is Orangedale Auto.... Terry, Nick , Pete and the guys are always there to service my classic cars and daily drivers. They stand behind everything they do and they provide the best service in their business. We strive for that in our store. We guarantee satisfaction on every product sold in our store no questions asked. Our customers Appreciate that and the service we provide on a daily basis. Our staff is trained to always make every customer happy before they leave with their purchase. Success does not come easily but we have strived to be the best small independent liquor/ wine shop and are very PROUD of what we’ve accomplished. 15 years and more to come!
St. Johns Magazine