New Retailer: Ace Spirits in Hopkins, MN
A couple of weeks ago, a twitter follower brought Ace Spirits to my attention, wondering if I had heard about the store. I hadn't, so I looked online to see what it might be. Right on the front page: “every whiskey available in the state.” Color me intrigued.
Since that time, I’ve been to Ace a couple of times. It’s not hard to find, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might drive past it, never noticing it’s there. On my first visit, I wondered if I was in the correct spot or if my phone had led me astray. I was in the parking lot of a small strip mall and there was no sign that said “Ace Spirits be here.” There was a large sign above one of the doors that simply said: “BEER & WHISKEY, “ which was enough for me to decide that even if I wasn’t in the correct place, it was the place I really wanted to be anyway. As I walked up to the store, I wondered if it was open. Unlike most of the liquor stores in the area, there was a definite lack of light spilling out. But above the slightly mirrored door, there was a small sign that said something about cold beer. And it was lit, so I wandered in.
I was immediately welcomed upon entering. Which was a nice change from many of the stores I visit. It was dark, but comfortably so. It’s a small area, but not crowded. The shelves were dark wood and two walls were covered floor to ceiling with whiskey bottles. If you put my computer desk and a small tv in there, it would be exactly how I imagine my man-cave to be.
To learn more, I reached out to Louis Dachis, proprietor of Ace Spirits. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions.
So what's the Ace Spirits story?
Ace Spirits has been an idea percolating for a few years. I had been getting very interested in beer and whiskey of all types and I found what were once wine trips were turning into brewery and distillery tours. I had been operating three Merwin Liquors stores in the cities and the amount of space dedicated to beer and whiskey was expanding as I got more and more into it and the customers responded to the increasing selection. My gal, Sara and I visited the Whiskey Shop in Brooklyn and we really loved the idea of a small and focused space. Craft beer was already exploding and we were watching dedicated whiskey bars open in the cities and menus at existing places expand to include more whiskey and better beer.
The idea was to create an experience surrounding the purchase. A place to talk about these things we love in a comfortable space. The entire setup was to be very intentional from layout, stocking, fixtures and lighting. It would have been easy to buy Lazier shelving and slap some paper signs over the windows, but that's not what we were going after. We've blocked all sunlight from the outside with walls and window film to prevent skunking. All lights in the store, with the exception of the three above the register are narrow-band LED's and we keep the temps in the store on the chilly side to aid with the freshness goal. The build out still isn't done and we will probably always consider it a work in progress.
Your website claims to carry every whiskey available in Minnesota. And since I saw things that I haven't found elsewhere, I believe you. But why? And why do you think the competitors aren't?
Why not? It's our focus. We love the stuff. And it's funny, you can have just as long and passionate discussion with someone about the merits of Old Overholt as you can about Balvenie 40. There's a lot to be said for that. We all like different stuff and it's very true that certain items lend themselves best to certain experiences. I really enjoy it all and love to hear from the people that produce it as well as those that love to drink it. Others don't do it because there are a lot that don't sell. It's that simple. But it's sort of like being open 24 hours- you don't stay open because you do a ton of business between the hours of 3 and 4am, you do it because everyone knows that no matter when they swing by, you will be there. This is a similar concept. If you love whiskey, you know we will have it.
After visiting the website, it's not hard to see that you are doing things a little differently than most stores. Many local whiskey fans have been involved in drawings to win a chance to purchase rare spirits. Your contest is just to win the whiskeys. Free.
I like the word "Free". It gets people's attention. Especially when it comes to these items. I wanted to let people know who we are and what we were all about. It's not much more complex than that.
Not that I'm complaining since you are basically on my way home from work, but why Hopkins? Why not Minneapolis or St. Paul?
I would love to have opened in Minneapolis, but state law prevents me from having more than one license in any given municipality. I grew up in Hopkins and love the Western Suburbs. Four Firkins covers the edge of the city, but there wasn't anything out this way. Being as close as it is to Highway 7, 494, and the new thoroughfare that Shady Oak is to become for EP, I thought this was a great spot. The bones of the space were good and because this is to be a destination, the location wasn't quite as critical. There was a store a block away that closed recently which allowed us to move in. This store did OK, and I'm hoping the neighborhood welcomes us and affords us similar success in addition to those that may come to visit from further away. So far, the response has been very encouraging.
I’d like to thank Louis again for taking the time to answer some questions. You can learn more about The Great Whiskey Giveaway at AceSpirits.com or engage with them on Twitter (@acespirits) or Facebook.com/AceSpirits. This place is not your typical Minnesota liquor store. That’s a very good thing. I have a feeling I’ll be here more often than my wife would like.