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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
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    12,567

    Changes at Sam's

    As it turns out, I haven't been to Sam's in almost two years. Binny's is a little more convenient for me and my log shows a lot of visits to stores in Kentucky and other places in the interim. However, I have been shopping at Sam's for about 20 years.

    I paid a visit yesterday.

    Midday on a Monday I would expect to be slow, but the store seemed practically empty and there were only about four cars in the parking lot. More significantly, the store's famous clutter seemed to be gone, or at least much reduced. Sam's always has seemed to be in a struggle between providing enough room for product and providing enough room for customers, with customers usually on the short end. The aisles are now much wider. That's not bad, but the impression to a long-time shopper is that there is a lot less product on offer.

    At some time in the not so distant past, they filled the store up with big screen TVs showing commercials. Those are all gone.

    The tall shelving at the far end of the store, going up probably 20 feet or more, with bottle goods where you could reach them and cases, accessible by lift truck, above them, the high part of that is all gone.

    It also seemed harder to find my bread and butter, wine-wise, which is pretty decent wines (usually from Australia, New Zealand, Chile or Argentina) for less than $10 a bottle. Oh, I still found a few, but the new low end seems to be between $10 and $20 a bottle.

    American whiskey still a very good selection and fair if not outstanding prices. They had Hirsch 16 gold foil in pretty good supply, for $99.99. Also several expression of Black Maple Hill, Noah's Mill and Vintage. Although there were only a few people in the store, I saw two different groups clustered around and discussing the various Vintage offerings, which I believe included a 17, 21 and 23 in the bourbons. Also on the shelf, I counted three, was the 21-year-old Rittenhouse, at $143. On the other hand, I didn't notice any of the BT Antiques and saw only one Van Winkle, a Pappy.

    I picked up an Old Forester 100 (not Signature) 1.75, along with a 750 of Rittenhouse Rye. Out of curiosity, I also bought a 750 of Laird's Applejack.

    It was hard to tell from that visit if Sam's is in trouble or just trying to clean up its act a little to compete better with Binny's. Sam's now has three locations while Binny's has 17, maybe it's 19. Sam's was always a warehouse-type store, so maybe what I observed is all deliberate. Maybe not. I have heard some grumbling in the industry about "the sons" not having the same fire for the business as the founding generation.

  2. #2
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Northford, CT
    Posts
    784

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    I can't speak for store appearances of either Binny's or Sam's, but as far as online prices go Sam's has got Binny's beat by a wide margins, at least in the Bourbons section. As a result, Sam's will get my business over Binny's any day.

  3. #3

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    Would be interesting to know if these apparent changes were cause or effect of the store's sale to youngest Rosen brother, Brian, and his 'outside investors' in February.
    As many of the publicly-traded distillery outfits have shown, 'outside investors' (or, more often, public stockholders), often force immediate profit by 'cost-saving'. One report (http://gapersblock.com/drivethru/drink/ , almost to the bottom) says one of the new ownership's first moves was to pink-slip eight employees.

    Add: I just ran across this http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Ar...5,6071,00.html. Seems the emphasis is no longer local, but 'going national'.
    Well, darn it -- the link takes you to an abbreviated version at another URL requiring a log-in. Just Google "Sam's Wine and spirits sold" and scroll down to the
    Wine Spectator reference.
    Last edited by TNbourbon; 07-24-2007 at 16:37.
    Tim

  4. #4
    Disciple
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Alliance,Ohio
    Posts
    1,514

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    I caught a big sale on Sam's website at the end of March and made out like a bandit in the whiskey category. Prices being alike, one thing Binny's does have going for it is the shipping is quite a bit cheaper. I think Sam's new investors are betting that more states will restrict shipping of alcohol in the future and have decided to expand to certain key non "control states"!

    Thomas

  5. #5
    Taster
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    81

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    I hardly ever go to Sam's. One because Binny's is much closer to my house, and second I find that Binny's is mostly cheaper then Sam's. Its not always the case, but I can walk to Binny's and I have to drive to Sam's, so I guess I save on gas.
    "And that low down southern whiskey, began to fog my mind"
    -Little Feat
    -Dixie Chicken

  6. #6
    Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pelham, AL
    Posts
    3,892

    Cool Re: Changes at Sam's

    Quote Originally Posted by TNbourbon View Post
    Would be interesting to know if these apparent changes were cause or effect of the store's sale to youngest Rosen brother, Brian, and his 'outside investors' in February.
    After reading Chuck's original post, my broad guess was, "change in ownership". You have already provided the details to back up my guess.

    Tim
    Self-Styled Whisky Connoisseur

  7. #7
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    800

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    I frequent both in Highland Park. Sam's has great in-house made bleu chees stuffed olives for martinis, but that's not so relevant here on SB.com.

    Binny's is the only place I've been able to get Pappy 20 and 23. Sam's can't even get it when I've asked the manager to special order it--I never hear from him. Same with Dickel Barrel Select; Binny's had it for me within a week. Hard to believe. Binny's also has a great beer selection. I guess overall for whiskey (single malt, bourbon and TN), I buy a lot more at Binny's.

  8. #8
    Guru
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Northwest of Peoria
    Posts
    4,437

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    [quote=bigtoys;93273...Binny's is the only place I've been able to get Pappy 20 and 23. Sam's can't even get it when I've asked the manager to special order it--I never hear from him. Same with Dickel Barrel Select; Binny's had it for me within a week..[/quote]

    I to generally get better service from Binny's. Last fall when searching for the BT Antique collection I never heard back from Sam's. Binny's didn't list it on their web site (at first) but they had it. I spoke with Brett Pontoni and placed an order directly with him. Later that evening around 8:30 he called to inform me that my credit card purchase didn't go thru. It seems I had never used that card for on-line purchases before and it had been "red flagged". After a call to the credit card company I called Brett back. At that point It must have been close to 9:00 PM. Hard working guy. I appreciated the personal service and since then Binny's has gotten most of my mail order business.

  9. #9
    Moderator
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    Sep 2006
    Location
    Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
    Posts
    1,597

    Re: Changes at Sam's

    I have never dealt with Sam's as I am in Australia, and as for as I know they don't ship here.
    I order stuff from Binny's all the time and have had nothing but great service from Brett and also John & David in the shipping dept. Nothing is ever too hard for these guys! If they don't have an answer they always get back to you with one.

    Scott
    "I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day" - Frank Sinatra

 

 

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