By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
KENMORE — When it comes to drinking, customers across the globe can get pretty much everything but the alcohol at KegWorks.
For the past 15 years the Kenmore-based company has operated an entirely online business selling cocktail ingredients and supplies, home beer-making kits, and kegerators, but all that changed last week when founder and president David Rivers launched his first retail store at 1460 Military Road.
Now in addition to the online business, Western New Yorkers have a place to go if they want to do a little browsing for their home bar needs.
“People started finding (our warehouse), walking in the front door, saying, “I need this ... I need that,’ ” Rivers said. “We never turned them down.”
But KegWorks’ catalog of some 1,600 items was not on full display in its warehouse-based operation. Customers “could never see anything else,” Rivers said.
“Once (customers) see the variety in here (it’ll be) the typical kid in a candy store reaction,” he said of the new store.
Rivers, along with a staff of about 50 employees, took over the vacant Mr. Seconds Bargain Outlet building on the corner of Military Road and Sheridan Drive — in the same lot as the KegWorks warehouse — and for about a year have been planning and prepping the space with a retail design company in Portland, Ore.
“Where do you start?” Rivers asked, gesturing to the retail space as workers put finishing touches on displays and scrubbed down the new floors. “There were concrete walls, concrete floors ... there was nothing here.”
Now nearly everything KegWorks sells — other than some of the more commercial equipment — can be found in the store, including draft equipment, a large selection of cocktail bitters, glasswear and specialty sodas.
And they’ll be adding more, Rivers and CEO Tom McManus said.
“This is just the skeleton right now,” Rivers said. “This is a great laboratory for the website ... we can test things here. We can finally talk to customers and find out what they’re doing with stuff, ask them, ‘What are you doing with those empty bottles?’ ”
“What type of products are we not carrying but should be?” McManus said. “That kind of immediate feedback” is what we want.
The two said they expect the products KegWorks carries to evolve over time to adjust to new trends in the cocktail and beer world.
Take, for example, Kegworks’ collections of dozens of different bitters — the website says 52 varieties and counting — which are used to flavor cocktails.
“The bitters are a big thing ... they’re the spice rack for the bar,” Rivers said. “We probably have the largest selection in the country and it’s constantly growing.”
He said the bitters — which come in flavors like orange, rhubarb and Aztec chocolate — are fun to play with and can even be used in soda cocktails.
McManus said some of the products are so niche, even he and Rivers sometimes don’t realize what they have in stock at times.
“David and I are sometimes baffled,” McManus said with a laugh. “I’ll ask him, ‘Did you know we carry this?’ “
Along with the new retail store, Rivers said KegWorks is launching a new custom bar service completed by in-house construction crews. With bar and sports signs and lights, the company offers customers much of what they need to create the “intimate” man cave look in their own home or for the more commercial customer.
“Anyone that serves alcohol is a customer for us,” McManus said.
IF YOU GO • WHAT: KegWorks • WHERE: 1460 Military Road, Kenmore • HOURS: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday • MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.kegworks.com, or call 929-7570.
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.