At the recent Retail Drinks Industry Awards, Bermagui Cellars on the NSW far south coast was announced as Liquor Store of the Year.

Michael Trenerry, who owns the store with wife Fran, watched on in the virtual stream from South Australia, and said it was fantastic to see his team celebrate and accept the award together.

“It was awesome, and I’m just glad that they were all able to do it together as a team. I’m not exactly very emotional, but it was certainly emotional to watch them. When the name Bermagui Cellars was read out, just to see the excitement and joy was awesome,” Trenerry said.

“I think it’s recognition for the hard work that the staff have put in for a long period of time. We’ve got a mix of new staff and staff that have been with us for over 10 years, but whether they’ve been here for 10 years or six months, they all just get it and they understand what we have always tried to achieve with the store. Recognition for their effort in getting the store to where it is nowand for that hard work and dedication to our shop – that’s the best part of this award.”

For Bermagui Cellars, part of the Independent Liquor Group (ILG) banner family, that core focus that the staff keep in mind is to always maintain a point of difference. Trenerry said that extends from customer service to product knowledge to a connection to community, and is intended to encourage return customers.

“We identified really early on that we needed a point of difference, otherwise, why would people shop with us instead of driving to Bega or Bateman’s Bay to another bigger store? And why would they continue to come back?” Trenerry said.

“It was things like staff training and customer service that were always a focus. Then also the product range – we always ensured that we didn’t just have the same-same, and were always reviewing our products. Being an independent bottle shop too we are very big on supporting independent producers.”

It’s a recipe for success that has worked particularly well for Bermagui Cellars, who came out on top to win Liquor Store of the Year amongst some very tight competition.

The judging for this particular title in the Retail Drinks Industry Awards is carried out through independent mystery shops which assess each nominated store on a range of criteria. This includes: arrival experience and first impressions; store layout and appearance; product ranging and diversification; staff presentation, customer service and product knowledge; sales skills and the sales transaction; and also responsible service and compliance. All nominated stores received a copy of their mystery shopper report too.

Trenerry said: “We actually ended up having two mystery shopper reports come back because Retail Drinks explained to us that after the first round of mystery shopping, the top four accounts were basically the same in terms of the high reviews received. So they did a second mystery shop, and from here we obviously took the lead.

“The things that were great in the report were the customer service and the product knowledge from two different staff who had been mystery shopped, and that was the most pleasing thing. That consistency was what we’re most proud of.”

Another element that Trenerry called out when talking about the journey of Bermagui Cellars and its success was the support of ILG.

“The support they have given us over quite a long period of time [has been great]. The thing I love about what they do is how they’re so forward thinking in their support that you don’t even have to ask, they’ve already put mechanisms in place to help,” Trenerry said.

“Particularly over that fire period [in 2019/2020], what Paul Esposito and the team were able to do to support the affected stores was really quite humbling, because we didn’t need to ask, they just did it. I think that’s what you always hope for.”

The team at Bermagui Cellars, winner of the Retail Drinks Industry Award for Liquor Store of the Year
The team at Bermagui Cellars celebrating the win. Source: Facebook/Bermagui Cellars

The Bermagui Community

When celebrating the win on social media last week, Trenerry wrote about what it meant to the store, but also to the local community, which has had an exceptionally difficult time in the last 18 months.

The town was part of the south coast area that was devastated by Black Summer bushfires in 2019/2020. As Trenerry originally told National Liquor News in the March 2020 issue, the impact of this was widespread and not only contained to the time when fires were still burning.

After the fires and the pandemic, Trenerry said there was a refocusing on the value of small, independent, local businesses and winning Liquor Store of the Year emphasises that value.

“It’s a very cyclical community. If customers are supporting our store, then it means that we have the ability, through profitability, to support and invest back into the community,” Trenerry said.

“Whether it be the local footy or cricket club, the surf lifesaving clubs, the RFS – it doesn’t matter what the group is. We love to be able to serve and support them, and the more success we have as a business, the more we can really contribute back to the community.”

Trenerry may not have been in Bermagui to accept and celebrate the award, but the reason he is in South Australia surrounds another way he is looking to invest in the local area and the Bermagui Cellars store.

“After 15 years running the shop, Fran and I were looking at different ways in which we can continue our growth forward, not just within the shop from a business point of view, but for us personally as well. We’ve always had a long held passion for the wine industry and so we’ve just bought a vineyard in McLaren Vale,” Trenerry said.

The Trenerrys won’t be making wine themselves and are more interested in the growing side. However, they do want to create a wine for a very special reason, and have just engaged a design company to help them do that.

“[We want to make] something that really encompasses Bermagui Cellars and being a part of that community too, because proceeds will go back to the community for the wine. That’s another reason why we’re doing what we’re doing, to get another mechanism to support local,” Trenerry said.

“We did actually do a wine a couple of years ago, we bought a couple of clean skins, labelled it ourselves and a dollar from every bottle went to the community. We were able to give a cheque for $10k to the local surf club, we gave money to the footy clubs and were also able to use some money to help people go across to Cambodia for a build a few years ago… this is why we’ve got the vineyard, so we can continue that side of what we do.”

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...