And Sweeping Changes in State Laws, Embellish the Customers Shopping Experience
Thanks in part to Oklahoma’s evolving liquor laws, many of the area’s liquor stores are relatively young compared to other local businesses. Parkhill’s Liquor & Wines is a major exception to that trend.
Since 1963, a loyal following has turned to the family’s business at the Fikes Shopping Center at 51st and Lewis for after-dinner cocktails and celebratory libations. It’s one of the oldest liquor stores in town, if not the oldest. This fall, that long-standing tradition will undergo a big physical change.
Lance Parkhill is in the process of putting the finishing touches on the new, 20,500-square-foot Parkhill’s Liquor & Wines, which is due to open in early November just east of the businesses’ longstanding home. And Parkhill has designed the store to take full advantage of the sweeping changes in the state alcohol laws when they go into effect next year. “Overall this change is exciting,” he said. “The upcoming liquor law changes combined with the new building will bring some fresh energy into our current business model.”
State question 792, passed by Oklahoma voters last year, sparked numerous changes in state regulations. The best-known of these changes are the ability for grocery stores to sell strong beer and wine, and for liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer. Parkhill is ready for that frosty change with a 27-door cooler, but he won’t stop there. The new store will also feature a walk-in “beer cave,” which will be kept at refrigerator temperatures. “We plan to put featured items in the cave,” he said.
Another effect of SQ 792 is the ability for liquor stores to sell a certain amount of mixers and snacks in their stores. That does away with the need for party stores — that is, stores that are owned by, but technically and physically separate from a liquor store in order to sell mixers. Parkhill’s in the Fikes Shopping Center has a party store, but the new building will open about a year before the new laws go into effect on October 1, 2018. Parkhill and GH2 Architects came up with a solution without using a temporary structure. The new store was designed with an area that can separate itself with a large shutter door similar to the entrance of a garage. With the door closed, the area fits the legal definition of a separate party store. “When the law changes, we’ll open up the door and you can shop in both stores,” he said.
The new store will allow Parkhill to bring to midtown the tasting room concept Parkhill’s wife Tina incorporated into her store in south Tulsa. A 3,000-square-foot area upstairs will host private tastings of beers, wines or select liquors, to give the uninitiated a chance to learn about tequilas or scotch, for instance. Parkhill also plans to rent out the space for private tastings and donate the space so that charities can hold their own tastings. “We haven’t opened the new store and I’ve got people calling wanting to rent the tasting room already,” he said.
At a total of 20,500 square feet, the new store isn’t much larger than the original 18,000-square-foot location. But it will still provide the opportunity for Parkhill to expand the stock, as the new space was designed from the ground up as a liquor store. “The current store was originally a grocery store,” he said. “We’ve remodeled many times, but there are still nooks and crannies we haven’t been able to use.” Parkhill said while the Fikes Shopping Center served the store well over the years, he’s looking forward to working in a fresh, modern new space. The exterior of the store features cool grays and clean lines, similar to his wife’s store in south Tulsa.
Though the new location will provide Parkhill with an array of opportunities, the move came out of necessity. QuikTrip purchased the shopping center last year, and plans to raze it and construct a convenience store on that corner. That forced Parkhill to move fast. He originally looked at relocating across I-44, but rezoning the area to accommodate his business would have taken time he didn’t have. Building immediately next to QuikTrip was out as well, as the chain prohibits liquor stores from operating next to proposed new locations.
Finally, help came from an unexpected group — the Girl Scouts of America. The group was just about to move out of their building to the east of Parkhill’s, and offered it for purchase. “It was meant to be,” Parkhill said. “We’ll still be able to stay at 51st and Lewis.” Staying put in the same area was an important priority for Parkhill, as he knew several generations of customers relied on his family’s store, and he didn’t want another liquor store to open up in the area and take their business.
Lance’s father Fred Parkhill originally opened the store in the shopping center, but it wasn’t the first for the family — Lance’s grandfather operated a liquor store within the old Camelot Hotel at 51st Street and Peoria Avenue, and Fred learned the industry by working as a liquor wholesaler. Fred Parkhill’s store originally didn’t have a name, as liquor laws in effect at the time prohibited liquor stores from having names. It was also located in the opposite end of the shopping center as the current location, but it eventually took over the space formerly occupied by Fikes IGA grocery store.
Lance remembers spending part of his childhood at the store, at least when it wasn’t open. “My dad was a single parent, and I was taken to the store nearly every Sunday as he put in his orders for the week, and I caused some chaos.” Lance Parkhill became more helpful as he got older, starting as a floor clerk in 1996. By 2002, he became the store’s wholesaler — all Oklahoma liquor stores are required to buy their products from wholesale companies, and the younger Parkhill got product at lower prices. Finally, in 2007 Lance Parkhill bought the store entirely. “He came to me one holiday season and told me that was the last holiday season he wanted to do,” Parkhill said.
Like many other liquor store owners, he’s a little concerned about how the new liquor laws will affect his business. However, he believes Parkhill Liquor & Wines will be in a strong position to compete, and not just because of the attractive new building. “We have the knowledge to help the customer get them what they need at a great value, as well as a proven track record of success with over five decades under our belt,” he said.