Beer Bar for a Brooklyn Duane Reade

NEW YORK -- To combat opposition from Brooklyn residents loyal to a local pharmacy and against Duane Reade’s new store opening, the drug chain decided to go with a unique niche: a bar that specializes in beer, reported the New York Times.

The "beer bar corner" of the Williamsburg neighborhood store features Fire Island Lighthouse Ale and eight other beers on tap, with growlers -- refillable glass bottles -- lining the walls. Uniformed clerks/beer experts fill the growlers and conduct tastings. Behind a bar, a large walk-in refrigerator stocks common national brands as well as local, craft and imported beers.

"We knew we would have a little bit of a battle to try to bring Duane Reade into this community, because they really don’t like a chain store," Paul Tiberio, senior vice president for merchandising and marketing told the Times.

In Williamsburg, as the Duane Reade was being built across the street from the mom-and-pop Kings Pharmacy, bloggers and Facebook groups started to rally against the new store.

"The opposition was coming from blogs, but it was more the concept of Duane Reade or what they thought Duane Reade was going to be here," said Paul Clark, Duane Reade’s vice president for marketing.

By offering beer, along with items like groceries, Duane Reade wanted to differentiate itself from Kings and seem like less of a threat.

A few blocks away from the new store, another Duane Reade had been one of the chain’s better performers in beer sales. "It’s really a young hipster community so we thought it would work well," Clark said.

In the cooler, Duane Reade stocks hard-to-find beers like Three Philosophers, Chimay and Porkslap. At the growler bar, customers can get their bottles filled with six kinds of draft beer.

Tiberio said the growler idea came from local breweries that sell to Duane Reade. The breweries reported that growlers, which were popular in the 19th century as a way to carry draft beer home or to work, were seeing a resurgence because Whole Foods and some local bars had begun to offer them. And as long as the growlers are filled by an employee and sealed in the store, Duane Reade does not need any additional licenses, according to the article.

Duane Reade executives said that the Williamsburg store was now the chain’s top location for beer sales, and that the average amount spent per visit at the store had risen since opening, as more people try the beer. Still, Tiberio said Duane Reade was considering this a one-off project.

"We wanted to keep it very community focused," he said.

The Williamsburg beer bar is part of a larger effort by Duane Reade to recognize -- and capitalize -- on the fierce identity and local needs of many New York City neighborhoods.

In some residential areas of Midtown East in Manhattan, for example, the stores sell cut flowers and, over the holidays, they sold fresh-baked pies. In the Bronx, Duane Reade carries more items from Goya, a brand of Hispanic foods, than it does in other areas, and has 40-foot-wide sections of African-American hair products in Harlem and the Bronx.

Around Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where office workers and commuters are plentiful, it has started to sell sandwiches and other quick lunches.

"With each of our newer stores, we’re trying to find what works in our community," Tiberio told the Times. And in Williamsburg, "this was an area that was devoid of opportunities for beer," he said.

Duane Reade was bought by Walgreens of Deerfield, Ill., for about $1.1 billion last spring.

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