After more than a year of will they or won't they, Waynesville's ABC Board will soon decide whether to open a second liquor store in the Super Walmart complex.
"Right now, we still don't have everything approved," said Earl Clark, chair of Waynesville's ABC board. But, "It's a whole lot closer than we were a year ago."
The board is contemplating a second location behind Hardee's along the entrance drive to Super Walmart off South Main Street. The area is considered a prime locale that will allow the town to capture a larger share of customers, whether it's residents or visitors.
The South Main Street plot "would be very ideal," Clark said.
While Canton and Maggie Valley have liquor stores as well, the convenience factor of a store beside Walmart makes it likely people would stop in for their liquor purchases while they are shopping in Waynesville even if they live in other parts of the county.
The ABC board has not purchased the land. A property option has expired.
However, the ABC board still has a few details to figure out. The board is working on a site layout that would work within Waynesville's development rules. One concern is providing adequate parking to match the size of the new store, Clark said.
Waynesville currently has one ABC store on Walnut Street, which dates to 1967. The building is small and can only hold so much inventory. It is also located in a strip mall that's somewhat off the beaten path from main commercial areas.
Clark said the current location is too small for the amount of business it does. Last year, the Waynesville store sold more than $2.1 million in alcohol.
The ABC board operates autonomously from other town entities, but Waynesville does receive a portion of the profits earned from alcohol sales each year.
Waynesville receives an average of $100,000, said Town Manager Lee Galloway.
Although the new store is expected to increase revenues, the town won't see a slice of that for years to come. The additional income will go toward buying the land, building the store and covering additional salaries and overhead.
The total cost of the new store is expected to hover around $1 million but could reach closer to $1.25 million when everything is said and done, Clark said. The property will cost about $500,000 and the remaining amount will cover the cost of construction and the initial stocking for the 5,000-square-foot store.
Just stocking the store alone, a cost that is borne upfront before sales start coming in, will likely cost between $150,000 and $175,000, Clark said.
"We are still counting our pennies," he said. "We want to build something nice."
If the ABC board gives the additional store the green light, then it would operate both locations for at least a couple of years. However, if the board does not see a benefit from keeping both open, it will shut down the smaller, older store in favor of the more prime South Main Street locale.
Meanwhile, Maggie Valley has struggled to make running two ABC stores pay off financially. Maggie Valley opened its second ABC store in 2009 on Dellwood Road. The town annexed a satellite tract a mile beyond the town limits for its new store, strategically situated close to Waynesville's doorstep in hopes of pulling some customers who previously traveled to Waynesville's liquor store.
In 2009 when Maggie's new store opened, revenue at Waynesville's ABC profits dove. While Maggie's ABC revenue grew, Waynesville's dropped by a comparable amount.
But, Maggie Valley's second store has yet to pay off. Sales are barely robust enough to cover overhead at two locations, and the cost of building the new store has not yet been paid off.
The Maggie Valley stores lost nearly $24,000 last year and a little more than $38,000 the year prior.
Profits for the Waynesville ABC store
Where the money goes
Surplus profits from ABC stores go back into town coffers. Waynesville's ABC profits took a hit the year Maggie Valley opened a second store on Waynesville's doorstep, siphoning off customers.
A portion of the proceeds are earmarked for local law enforcement and an alcohol education but the majority is simply added to the town's disposable revenue.