Blue Max Liquors: Burnsville, MN
So, in the time I've lived in Minnesota, I probably passed Blue Max Liquors in Burnsville, MN about 50-60 times without really noticing it was there. I mean I occasionally noticed that there was a building that had blue awnings, had Blue-something written on it and was a liquor store, but I never really gave it any real attention. When I got the first issue of my Whiskey Advocate subscription, I noticed it in the back under the Specially Retailer section.
"Where the hell is that? I've been everywhere in Burnsville," I muttered. Or something very near to that. Probably with happy curse words attached. Once I went to their website (http://www.bluemaxliquors.com for the curious) I knew exactly where it was. I'd driven past it numerous times. The listing said they were know for their scotch and bourbon selections.
Yes, I was in the car before the book closed, why?
When I pulled into the parking lot, I was a little leery. This close to the south end of the metro, you don't normally see stores with bars in the windows. But I persevered, visions of bourbons dancing in my head. And was I ever rewarded. I can't speak to the other types of whisky, as I have much less knowledge about them, but the bourbon selection was indeed the best I'd seen in Minnesota. And the prices were lower than the chain just down the road. It wasn't the shiniest place I'd been in. There weren't wide aisles or bright lighting. But it was comfortable. And more importantly, it was stocked to bursting with wine, craft beer (they claim 1300 varieties), whisky (450 varieties) and, I assume, other liquors as well. To be honest, I've never really ventured beyond the beer and bourbon sections. I've walked past wine bottles, but didn't really pay them much mind. And the people. They were so nice. Helpful, cheerful, ready to chat with you. Just what I would hope for in a place of such wonderment.
There is just one knock on them. And it is something that I really do not understand because their prices are good, their selection is excellent, and the staff is so nice. They are about a 20 minute drive from my house. So one time I called ahead to see if they carried a certain whisky. The guy said they did and then even put down the phone to make sure it was in stock. When he got back on the phone he confirmed that it was indeed in stock. I told him I'd be right in and then asked how much it was.
His cheerfulness faded. "We don't give prices over the phone," he snapped. I was shocked. I had just told him that I would be right in. I keep aside a bit of cash each month to help stock the stash I didn't want to bring all of it if I didn't need to.
Having worked in retail, this confuses me. I understand not wanting to tip off your competition, but to turn away customers as well seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater and counter-productive at best. Needless to say I didn't go in that day. In fact, I might not have gone back at all, but...there was one bourbon in particular that I wanted and I knew they had it and I couldn't find it anywhere else. The guy behind the counter was so nice that I was won over all over again.
Overall: I really like this store. I've just tried to memorize which of their products are cheaper (most) so I don't need to call again.