Is the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store as profitable as it could be?

Last week’s Strib South section had a story titled Savage fights to restore liquor profits

Fighting back against a plunge in profits, Savage is preparing to shake up its municipal liquor operation — and market itself more aggressively… With Matthies retiring, the city is not interested in promoting from within. It is seeking an outsider with a canny eye toward promotional magic, in particular the use of social media to generate buzz.

Northfield Municipal Liquor StoreThe Northfield Municipal Liquor Store (the Muni) doesn’t have an active web presence where it promotes its products. It’s not yet using social media, though to be fair, I couldn’t find many Munis that were. The liquor operations managers for both Eden Prairie Liquor and Edina Liquor have blogs, Richfield Liquor has a Facebook page, and Farmington Liquor posts updates on the City’s Facebook page (example here).  Savage Liquor has a Facebook page and one of its two stores has a Twitter feed but they’re not using them very well. Compare those munis use of social media to Haskell’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

But beyond the use of social media, the Strib article on Savage Liquor had this:

The city is also turning a cool eye on costs. Officials note for instance that Savage is the only city with just two stores to have a person with Matthies’ title and status. As he throttles back his involvement, a replacement will take a humbler role.

Saving nearly $60,000 in the short term, the city is expected to shift from a civil-service grade 14 "liquor operations director" and grade-10 "assistant liquor operations director" to a grade-11 "facility manager" and grade-8 "store manager." There have also been outright cuts in staff over the past two years.

I don’t know what the civil-service grades are for Northfield Muni’s Department Manager Stephen DeLong and staff but I’ll see what I can find out.

The Northfield City Council and the Ad Hoc Finance Study Group have been searching for additional sources of revenue for two years but I don’t think they’ve examined the Muni’s operations.

Decline in teen smoking jeopardizes profits for Northfield’s Muni, funding for Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use

Teen smoking is declining, according to a recent Monitoring the Future press release:

The 2011 national survey results from the Monitoring the Future study show decreases in teen smoking in all three grades under study—grades 8, 10, and 12. The proportion saying that they smoked at all in the prior 30 days fell significantly for the three grades combined, from 12.8% in 2010 to 11.7% this year.

Northfield Municipal Liquor StoreOfficials from the City of Northfield this week, while acknowledging that this is good news for obvious reasons, expressed some concern because the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store profits from its sale of cigarettes and cigars.

"These teens are our potential future customers," said Juan Morefore DeRhode, Muni Manager.  "If this trend holds up, we’re going to have to revisit the revenue projections in our long-range plan and adjust accordingly." 

When asked what marketing strategies he’d consider that might help to ensure future tobacco revenues, DeRhode said he continues to have discussions with the gift shop at the Northfield Hospital, owned by the City of Northfield but operated by the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary. "We’ve always said that one of the reasons we carry tobacco products at the Muni is for the convenience of the customer.  That rationale holds up for the hospital’s gift shop, too, with so many of its patients addicted to tobacco. We’d be delighted to work with them and split the profits."

The issue was on the agenda of Northfield’s Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use last week.

"Tobacco will prematurely kill the kids who smoke but only when they get much older," said Task Force member Dr. Kirsten Mashton.  "So we’re not really concerned about that.  Our worries are tied to the revenue projections. We received $15,750 in 2011 from the Muni. If the decline in teen smoking continues, that jeopardizes our future funding and our ability to make an impact."

The City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) is also concerned. "We worked hard to bring two tobacco businesses to Northfield in the past year," said EDA President Janis Tappan. "It would be a shame if Tobacco Field or Division Tobacco took a hit from this decline in teen smoking and had to close."

Tobacco competitors encroaching on City of Northfield’s revenue stream; budget implications loom

tobacco palsCity of Northfield faux logojoe-camel-tn

The City of Northfield has had the exclusive franchise on selling tobacco downtown for quite a while. Yes, you can buy cigars and cigarettes at the Muni.

Six months ago, Tobacco Field opened near downtown on So. Hwy 3. And now, Division Tobacco is coming to Division St. Nfld Patch: Legal restrictions force councilors to allow downtown tobacco shop

In a near legally mandated vote, councilors approved 5-2 to allow a business owner with a history of criminal disputes and stores that sold drug paraphernalia to open a new shop in Northfield.

Councilors Rhonda Pownell and Kris Vohs voted against the measure despite city attorney Chris Hood’s claim that Northfield "[does not] have sufficient basis to deny" a license and risked legal action if it denied the license.

With tough budgeting on the horizon for the City, I’m wondering what Muni manager Stephen DeLong has in mind to ratchet up tobacco revenue.

Let’s help him out by brainstorming some suggestions.

City of Northfield: We now have cigars!

City of Northfield Municipal Liquor Store: We now have cigars!The City of Northfield’s Municipal Liquor Store has  a new sign in its window:

"We now have cigars!"

Evidently, the Muni is not to be outdone by the soon-to-open Tobacco Field store on Hwy 3. Never mind what the Mayo Clinic says about cigar smoking.

I’ve closed comments on this post.  Join the discussion on this post: Surgeon General: Just one cigarette can harm you. City of Northfield: Buy it from us.

Surgeon General: Just one cigarette can harm you. City of Northfield: Buy it from us.

Last week saw many stories in the media like this one from USA Today, Just one cigarette can harm DNA, Surgeon General says:

Smooth ReaperEven brief exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to the body, damaging cells and inflaming tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report on tobacco, the first such report in four years.

While the report, out today, focuses on the medical effects of smoke on the body, it also sheds light on why cigarettes are so addictive: They are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and more efficiently than cigarettes did decades ago.

Unlike (many? most? all?) municipal liquor stores in the Twin Cities area, the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store continues to sell cigarettes, hundreds of dollars worth every month, for an annual profit of aboutf $5,000/year.

I last whined about this policy in August of 2007 (Should the City of Northfield be selling gateway drugs to its citizens? Alcohol, yes. Tobacco, no) and before that in January of ’07 with a faux news post, Northfield Hospital board opts for cigarette revenue.

I really don’t understand why the Northfield Hospital Board, the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use (MTF), the Northfield School Board, and other local organizations concerned with health and youth chemical issues don’t pressure the Northfield City Council to get out of the tobacco business. Don’t they take ClearWay Minnesota‘s campaign We all pay the price for tobacco seriously?

Muni’s hole in the wall repaired

hole in the external wall of the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store Patched hole in the external wall of the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store
It took a long time (9 months? 12 months?) but the hole in the external wall of the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store has been repaired. See my June blog post for background.

City promises to do a better job maintaining its buildings. Here’s an opportunity.

To her credit, Mayor Mary Rossing acknowledges in her budget presentations that the City has not properly maintained the Safety Center, something I complained about in a blog post last November. (On taking responsibility for 20+ years of deferring maintenance on the Northfield Safety Center.)  She promises that the City will do better.

The hole in the external wall of the Muni is an opportunity to deliver on this promise.

Back in April, Northfield News Managing Editor Suzy Rook wrote in an online column called ‘Walking the Walk’:

For several months I’ve seen a section of the liquor store’s south side wall crack, buckle and come apart, leaving a hole I could fit both fists into with room to spare. I’ve wondered how long the city planned to let moisture impact a building that’s already in poor condition.

Hole in Northfield Municipal Liquor Store wall

Two months later, the hole is still there (right under the display window on the sidewalk), getting bigger, letting in rain water, and prominently countering the Mayor’s promise to do better at the very time that the City ramps up its pitch to the citizens on the need for new police and fire facilities.

Why the Muni never wins best window display

Muni xmas window displayI drove past Northfield’s Municipal Liquor Store this morning and notice that their window display has snowmen, Xmas trees, presents under the trees, and snowflake wallpaper.

I’m guessing that in these days of budget cuts, the Happy Holidays ‘green’ is being repurposed for St. Patrick’s Day ‘green’ as a cost-saving measure.

Putting out fires and not deferring maintenance on the Muni roof

Northfield Municipal Liquor Store

I took this photo of a construction/roofing crew working the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store roof yesterday morning. It later caught fire (Nfld News story). The Northfield Fire Department responded but the fire was put out by the construction crew.

Northfield Municipal Liquor Store back on the development table?

In the Project News section of the October 19, 2009 Construction Bulletin newsletter, the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store is listed. I’ve not seen or heard anything about from City of Northfield councilors or staff. Anyone know what’s up?

Page 25, October 19, 2009 Construction Bulletin newsletterProposed Pending Owner Review

Estimated value: Not available.

Owner: Northfield City Hall

Attn: Joel Walinski

Consult: McCombs Group LTD, Mpls

Size: 1 bldg

Descr: Individual Store; Store within 0.22 Mile of State Trunk Highway 3 or State Trunk Highway 19, New or Existing Building

Notes: 1. Proposals For Land Sale, Build-To-Suit Sale, Build-to-Lease, Existing Building  Sale & Existing Building Lease Are Under Review

Pornographic wine: banned in Alabama, proudly sold at Northfield’s Muni

Close your eyes, children of Northfield.

Bob Stangler Cycles-Gladiator-LabelLast Saturday, I took this photos of Northfield Municipal Liquor Store’s Bob ‘Fat Bastard’ Stangler proudly displaying the Cycles Gladiator wine that according to this NPR news blog post, was banned by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Why wasn’t the liquor store roof replaced after the hail storm?

Northfield Liquor Store A pesky citizen approached me last week during my morning office hours, wondering why the liquor store roof was not replaced after the big hail storm in 2006. The store’s roof is now targeted for replacement as part of the store’s $55-65K upgrade (Nfld News article).  We discussed it briefly on our podcast with Mary Rossing and I followed up with Interim City Administrator Joel Walinski. Joel wrote in an email: (continued)

Continue reading Why wasn’t the liquor store roof replaced after the hail storm?

City Council declines to relocate liquor store; opts to repair and renovate

img-5923 Both KYMN Radio and the Northfield News reported this morning that the Northfield City Council decided yesterday afternoon to repair the existing Northfield municipal liquor store instead of locating it elsewhere. This is great news, IMHO. See our straw poll from November and the related RepJ story and discussion.

KYMN: Council makes decision on Northfield liquor store site.
Northfield News: No new liquor store for Northfield

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