The “For Lease” sign out front doesn’t have any bearing on the future of Ruston’s liquor store at 5013 N. Pearl, according to owner Karen Ferguson. Ferguson plans on staying open for a good long time, even after the privatization of liquor sales this summer.
There are many unknowns about how the transition will play out. The Ruston Liquor Store is a private store, not a state-run operation. The store will have to buy its supply on the open market come June, but the rest of the operation remains much the same. The state-run stores are up for auction, but not so for the Ruston store.
Ruston has had a liquor store at this location for decades. Dean Carmichael ran the store until the 1990’s, when John Trueman bought the building and was approved by the state to run the liquor store. After some health issues, John gave up the liquor store to Ferguson after about 5 years, but he still owns the building.
Ferguson plans on continuing her hard work and hopes to even increase business once the state bows out. There are many unknowns even though the transition is only 3 months away. There is no clear distributor, no indication what the new prices will be, how much the new tax burden will be and many more unanswered questions. Ferguson predicts Ruston will see more tax at the local level from her business, but it will be a new system for her to learn.
The state will stay involved in licensing liquor sales and will set geographical boundaries called trade areas for where these businesses can locate. Delivery of wines by the state has already stopped and Ferguson has reapplied for the license to sell wine.
The court ruling this week means the transition outlined in last year’s initiative will move forward. The state issued a separate ruling last week that allows stores like Ferguson’s to sell her business. Prior to this ruling, she was only allowed to sell things like the shelving and non-liquor inventory without any compensation for the customers and on-going business operation. The change also means stores have standing with banks to secure financing ahead of the transition to help buy their current inventory and set up operation under a very different business model.
The Ruston Liquor Store averages gross sales just over $1 million annually. Ferguson has been working with local restaurants over the last few months, serving as a single point of contact for their liquor needs. Especially as the new system takes over, restaurants don’t want to deal with several different distributors for their differing liquor needs. Ferguson offers a one-stop service. She hopes to build on those relationships in June to help through the uncertainty of the transition.
The store will be able to advertise and offer items on sale under the new system. Before the state set the price, sales and items offered in the store. The last shipment from the state will arrive in mid-May. Ferguson encourages folks to stock up early for their summer festivities just in case prices spike. She’s open and ready for your business.