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Big Gulps


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Steve McClaren is into volume, big time. The cofounder of Beverages & More! has created a superstore that is to booze what The Home Depot is to hammers. Since the first BevMo opened in Walnut Creek in 1994, McClaren’s chain has spawned 50 stores across California. The Moraga resident and his team plan to open more than 20 new stores by 2007.

Q: Did you expect this to be such a hit?
A:
Yes. We did it with the full intention of being a category killer, to dominate the alcohol and beverage industry. A lifestyle beverage superstore is what we’ve got here, but we’ve given it small-wine-shop customer service. We built a good mousetrap, and it works.

Q: What has been your best idea?
A:
Simplifying the business. Taking all the mystery out of buying wine. We have a description and rating of every wine and every spirit.

Q: Worst idea?
A:
We grew out to Florida and Nevada in our third year, and it was too fast. We had to rein in what we did.

Q: Has the market changed since you started BevMo?
A:
People have evolved. You used to come in and get your Johnnie Walker or bottle of scotch; now more people are experimenting. In many cases our customers travel extensively: They expect to find a Bordeaux that they had in a little café in France.

Q: What will you be drinking with your Thanksgiving turkey?
A:
People always ask me what my favorite wine is, and I always say, what I’m drinking now. We’ll probably have a Pinot. Dahlia is our private label out of Monterey.

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