When Humberto Rodriguez and his wife Elizabeth opened Pikes Liquor on March 13 — the day COVID-19 was declared a national emergency — they could hardly imagine the challenges that awaited them.
The day of their opening, which was planned long before the coronavirus brought the economy to a standstill, the business made just $80.
They hoped their slow start meant many were planning to come the following day during their grand opening celebration, but the couple soon realized the unique difficulties that lay ahead.
“It definitely wasn’t planned this way,” Rodriguez said.
“We had hired Mountain Country [radio station] to do our advertising and they were going to do a live spot from the location on Saturday the 14th — and then they were told they couldn’t do anything because if they were to tell people to come over, they could’ve been liable if they got sick. So things didn’t really go the way we planned in terms of the grand opening.”
They decided to make the best of a bad situation and went ahead with the celebration the next day, and Rodriguez said they had a “pretty good turnout” while encouraging social distancing and precautionary hand washing for those who attended.
Since then, they’ve been running their new business while navigating a rapidly changing landscape caused by the statewide stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines — and they’re doing their best to position the business for success.
They’re currently offering curbside pickups and Rodriguez said they were one of the first liquor shops in town to start offering their goods for delivery.
They’ve also been posting videos to their Facebook page that highlight some of the local brands featured in their store and provide simple cocktail how-tos.
“Since people can’t come in, obviously, we’re at least trying to post about the products we have and give people information about the products we sell,” Rodriguez said.
“So we try to post as many things as we can in terms of pictures, and videos on using the products. It’s basically giving people ideas and making them aware of what we have, and how we can combine them as well. So we post and post and post because it will let someone in, at least virtually.”
For the past 10 years, Rodriguez has worked in credit card processing, selling, installing and managing the equipment needed for businesses to take credit cards, and training employees on the technology.
But when an opportunity arose to supplement his income and open his own small shop in Colorado Springs, Rodriguez jumped at the chance.
“[A liquor store] is a profitable business and is minimal in terms of employees as well as overhead, and there’s less of a risk in terms of loss,” Rodriguez said.
“Of course, we didn’t anticipate that the things that are happening right now would be happening, so it kind of put us in a difficult situation. But it is what it is and we’re going to come out of it by working as hard as we can.”
What Rodriguez has in mind for the future of Pikes Liquor is much more than just a place where people can buy alcohol.
He said what makes the store stand out from its competitors is its hyper-focus on promoting Colorado goods.
“All the products in the store, primarily, are from Colorado,” Rodriguez said. “So what we’re trying to do is bring awareness about what Colorado has to offer in terms of liquor, spirits, wine and beer. “
Even the shop’s decor is Centennial State-centric.
Instead of marketing materials for popular products like those typically seen on the walls of most liquor stores, Rodriguez’ shop exhibits art from local artists.
“When we’re able to have wine tastings here like we want to, the artists will come in and be able to speak about what inspired them to make the art that they did,” Rodriguez said.
“We are trying to make it more of a community-based business and to enlist the community itself.
“So also on our wine tasting days we’ll have, like, a book club, or a poetry night, or we’ll have an artist come in so people will be able to paint something, mold something or do something to that effect. Those are things that people have requested and showed interest in, in terms of wanting to visit our location when we have a wine tasting.”
Offering almost exclusively local products is working well for the space Pikes Liquor occupies, which is only about 1,200 square feet.
“We know for a fact that we wouldn’t be able to compete with a larger liquor store,” Rodriguez said. “So we have to be different.”
Established: March 2020