JJ’s aims to ‘elevate the experience’ in 2020

Feb. 10, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by JJ’s Wine, Spirits & Cigars.

“Elevate the experience.”

That has always been the goal for JJ’s Wine, Spirits & Cigars, but this year, owner Tom Slattery has made it a motto.

“We think we have the right people in place to do it on a bigger scale this year,” he said. “Whether it’s in our retail locations, at an event or hosting a celebration, we’re making changes that are going to allow us to elevate the customer experience even more.”

It starts with the store at 3000 W. 57th St., where the JJ’s team recently revamped the layout for a friendlier shopping experience.

“Thanks to new technology we’ve implemented, customers and staff will be able to locate items more efficiently,” Slattery said. “Pull up the website on your phone and it will tell you right where to go.”

Slattery also has strengthened his store team, naming Zac Johnson as general manager in late 2019. Johnson joined the JJ’s team while still at Augustana University, where he played football and earned a degree in exercise science.

“I had a lot of fun. I’m a big science guy, so I like to learn, and what solidified it was the first whiskey trip Tom took me on in 2018, seeing the behind-the-scenes process and learning what goes into it,” Johnson said. “As I saw the story behind it, I could tell the story to customers when they came in, and that made me want to stay.”

While he originally thought he would work part time at JJ’s for six months, it turned into a job as inventory manager, then store operations manager and finally general manager.

“He’s a sponge of information,” Slattery said. “So I realized he was going to be an excellent communicator to our customers about products, how things are made, where they come from. He will provide more information to customers than I ever did because I had to focus on too many other components of the business.”

Johnson will focus on daily operations of the store, freeing up Slattery to focus on other components of the business, specifically its events.

Slattery isn’t going anywhere, though – quite the opposite. He recently moved his desk onto the retail floor, allowing him to interact with customers while taking care of other work.

“My ability to help customers on a more personalized basis is going to increase because I’m not worried about daily operations,” he said. “So – again – I can offer a more elevated experience when they come into the store or book us for an event or come to a Levitt concert. I’ll be personally involved in every one of those components of the business outside our walls.”

Johnson said he will be putting a greater emphasis on educating all staff about the inventory because half of all customers come in with questions.

“We’ll be more intentionally familiarizing staff with flavor profiles of new products, characteristics, regions they’re coming from, explaining the little differences that do matter – especially to customers,” he said.

The goal is to provide such excellent service that customers keep coming back, Slattery said.

“You can only do that if you’re staffed appropriately and if the staff are trained,” he said. “We can compete on price all day long with anyone in the market, thanks to our VIP program, but making sure we’re sending you home with something that’s going to meet or exceed your expectations based on our knowledge of our products is what will encourage you to return.” 

Tasty additions

Customers at JJ’s also will discover some options to eat – both in the store and the 3.0 Cocktail Lounge. The Boozy Bakery’s owner – Slattery’s wife, Jean – and her team have put together new “grub boxes” filled with gourmet meats and cheeses, dried fruit, nuts, olives, dip and a dash of sweets.

“We decided it would be really nice for people to pick things up for parties or events but make them in a little smaller size to satisfy immediate needs while shopping for adult beverages,” Jean Slattery said. “We can put them together to serve anywhere from five to 12 people and can customize with a couple days’ notice.”

There also are sweet grub boxes filled with bite-size boozy or non-boozy brownies, cookies, homemade caramel corn, snack mix and gingersnaps. Call or stop in to discuss your order.

“We also can deliver to make it even easier,” she said.

Other new additions includes large-format cakes for sale in the bakery, with rotating flavors, and quiche, muffins and scones served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Food options in the cocktail lounge also are getting even better, with several new additions to the menu.

“Tom and I did some brainstorming and decided to add a chicken salad croissant, pretzel bites with homemade queso and homemade bourbon maple mustard and hot artichoke dip. Plus we’ll continue to offer our savory flatbreads.”

Jean Slattery also is helping with the overall development of JJ’s craft cocktail program.

“She’s been doing a lot of research on what’s hot, what people are doing, and we’ll be incorporating a lot of fresh ingredients into our new cocktail recipes,” Slattery said.

JJ’s will continue to grow its event business in 2020 – a key focus for Slattery. The team will staff cocktail service at 45 of the 50 free concerts at Levitt at the Falls again this season, and JJ’s has taken over event management at the new Sanford Event Barn.

JJ’s also frequently hosts events at its in-store event room and takes its beverage service on the road to accommodate a wide variety of corporate and social events.

“Again, throughout everything we do, our focus is on elevating the experience,” Slattery said. “Our event business is what’s helping us continue to evolve as more than strictly a retail business, and our renewed focus on our store experience is what will help keep us the beverage store of choice for our customers, old and new.”

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JJ’s aims to ‘elevate the experience’ in 2020

“Elevate the experience.” At JJ’s, “We think we have the right people in place to do it in a bigger scale.” This is what that looks like.

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