An Interview with: Liquor Store

Founded in February 2012 by Phil Hazel, Liquor Store is a breath of fresh air in the city of Birmingham. Independent retailers are slowly fading away which makes it all the more refreshing to see new stores come in with a bang.

Located within The Great Western Arcade in Birmingham the store has a sentimental but very modern feel to it. This sums up exactly what it was Phil set out to achieve, a store with knowledgeable staff, classic timeless garments mixed with brands of the future. Each brand is carefully handpicked by the team at The Liquor Store and each brand has a fantastic story to tell.

The Liquor Store’s biggest asset has to be their denim collection, stocking brands such as Nudie, Levi’s and the unforgettable Lee 101, alongside each of these there is still room for the ever popular Edwin Jeans. Although it is still early days for the Liquor Store they can have plenty to be excited about, it is surely only a matter of time until their fast growing reputation reaches every corner of the UK.

We had chance to pop into the store and have a little chat with owner and founder Phil Hazel.

How long have you owned The Liquor Store? When was the idea born?

I opened ‘Liquor Store’ on 15th February 2012, but the idea of the store and concept has been a long time in the making. I got into retail over 12 years ago but always with the aim of opening my own store one day as I really liked fashion. From working with several fashion brands including Hilfiger / Diesel / Wrangler and Lee jeans I tried to get a complete knowledge of the industry pre doing the store. Denim was a category that I loved and is a big part of Liquor Store. In particular I love heritage denim brands!

With this in mind I felt there was a real opportunity to open a store that had a concentration on denim and heritage. Old jean stores had gone and I felt no one could offer depth of fit and wash choice in strong heritage denim brands. To compliment this I had a passion for brands heritage or new that had a great story to tell, made well, subtle but strong detailing, and a contrast to high street fashion. I try and buy brands that have been making a certain product for a long time, and become known for making that item. Such as Levi’s for denim, Sperry original deck shoe, Dockers original chinos. With that we find we can sell to a 16 year old lad who is getting into certain brands but all the way through to 60 plus guys who have grown up with some of the brands we stock. I love that this works!

How would you define your city’s fashion?

I feel Birmingham has several different looks and customers seem to either go down the route of large logo’s and lots of detailing or go for heritage or clean and crisp looks. In a way timeless fashion, and this is where I want the store to be. Im sure in a few years we will still be selling selvage raw denim, classic red wing boots etc – essential looks!

Is there anywhere in the world that you consider to have a particular inspiring style?

Pre opening the store I did go to New York to check out a few stores and there are some gems. So I took some inspiration from there. In terms of inspiring style there is a lot of good looks and product coming out of Scandinavia currently. They deliver the clean quality look very well, but having said that we do some British labels such as Oliver Spencer who I feel are bang on.

Does this style influence what appears in your shop?

Not really, I judge each brand on it’s own merit and look for brands with heritage or good stories. Each brand I consider I look to see if it fits with the other brands we currently stock as I don’t want to confuse our offering. I find lots of our customers can shop across the whole store which is what I wanted.

What do you consider your core product?

We like to run core lines all year round as these items are essentials and will always be popular. These include the following:

All our denim brands there will be certain fits and styles that we always run. Eg. Levi’s selvage denim in 511 and 501 Clarks originals – desert boots Dockers chinos in khaki / navy Dockers oxford shirts Sperry leather deck shoes Red Wing boots Sanders shoes

What is one of your favorite brands to work with? Are there any brands which particularly excite you at the moment?

We do very well with Carhartt Heritage – I like them as they always stay true to their roots being a heritage American workwear brand. We have just brought in Wood Wood for this season and it looks great so very excited about that. In the next couple of weeks we will have Ebbets Field Flannels in which is true American heritage sportswear which I think will be really good.

Do you have any new brands due to come in any time soon? Are there any brands that you would particularly like to stock in the new future?

Several new brands for AW12 as follows: Wood Wood Fracap Ebbets Field Flannels Velour Palace Woolrich Levi’s Made & Crafted Lee 101 Carahrtt x APC

What importance do you place on an online presence?

It is absolutely essential these days. We have had a website up for about 6 weeks now and it is working well. Not only from selling products to all over the World but as a marketing tool it works well. The first thing most people will do if they hear about a store will be to google it. So to have a site showing all the product we do and information about us is definitely needed.

On a personal level, what does fashion mean to you? Is it something you’ve always had a passion for?

Yeah I have always been well into fashion and knew I would always do some sort of job in this area.

In terms of what fashion means to me, I believe everyone is different and would never be rude to customers if they had different views on what they see as good fashion. What I try and do is simply showcase my ideas of clean quality product from strong brands and hope there is enough like minded people who get this.

I strongly believe that you might have to spend a bit more on some items we sell than a similar high street version but due to the quality and styling you will get lots of wear and it will last well that in fact it becomes a cheap purchase.

How important do you consider the connection between fashion art music and film? Do the other creative industries influence what you do in-store?

I do believe guys that like fashion are into art, music and film as they usually are creative, but everyone is different. Due to us selling across all ages I think peoples choices in other creative fields would maybe be very different even if they liked the same garment.

We try and offer music in store that changes all the time from old to new to relate to lots of different tastes.

Where do you see your store in five years time?

I would like to hope that the store would be truly established as a must go to store in Birmingham and that Liquor Store is known as a great store across the UK but also from an online web view.

If all was working then maybe in 5 years we would have expanded to a larger unit, or opened a second store in another location, or created a ladies concept store with denim as the call out.

What plans do you have for the immediate future?

Really to make Liquor Store work and become known to more customers. It takes time but I know the customers we get love what we do and keep coming back which is great. I just want others to find and hopefully enjoy what we are about.