You can walk into a big box store or a small business and buy the same item. The same brand, the same label, maybe even from the same distribution truck. The tangible difference doesn’t stem from the product - it stems from the experience in buying it. The ‘grab-and-go’ mentality is what big box stores feast on. Walk into E-Ville Spirits, and you can throw that mentality out the window.
Celebrating its 13th anniversary on Friday, Dec. 18, Ellicottville’s prominent wine and liquor store sells by coupling stories and experience with an unheralded love and enthusiasm for the product on its shelves. Owner Shannon Carscallen has a family history rooted deep in the industry, and her passion is immediately evident.
“My entire family has been in the liquor industry for over 75 years,” she told me. “I was working in a different industry, and my father called and asked me to come into the business so he could retire. The idea for the store in Ellicottville came shortly after that. My sister and I grew up in Buffalo, but our parents had a house here, so we’ve got an understanding and appreciation for what the village is about.”
After forming the name E-Ville Spirits (“it just fit,” Carscallen said), she spent her time acclimating herself to the liquor industry, learning its ins-and-outs from her father and sister. With that came her attendance at multiple wine and business classes. The main goal of the store was, and is, to educate people about wine.
“I wanted to show people that at any price point, you can get a great bottle of wine,” she said. “As the store grew through the years, we were eventually able to add an upstairs education room so we could host classes about the differences of wine. Eventually, Bob (Duke, who has been with her since the beginning) and I saw the industry trending towards single malt scotch and bourbon, so now we offer classes on those as well.”
Carscallen’s experiences in traveling the world and visiting different wineries is what sets her apart from any other liquor store owner. Instead of speaking to people on the science of the wine - people tend to get bored with the jargon of such - she assimilates stories of her travels, animating the conversation with the sites and sounds of Italy, Germany or South Africa.
“People love to hear stories,” she said. “Wine is such a big part of our lives. So when I’m at a food pairing, I want to be able to explain to people why the grapes used in a particular wine match so well with the dish in front of them. They can then take the information and pass it along in conversation at a dinner party or gathering they go to. I like to give the wine a personality.”
She’s quick to point out that the store wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of Duke and Lindsey Bishop, another wine expert. A comfortable experience for the customer - as in, dealing with someone who knows everything and then some about the product they’re selling - is going to give them ample reason to come back.
“Our customers trust us that we’re going to steer them in the right direction. It’s giving the scotch, or wine, or whatever we’re selling a personality,” Carscallen said. “It’s the human touch that really sets us apart.”
Head into E-Ville Spirits on Dec. 18 to help them celebrate their 13th anniversary. They’ll be offering 15% off all full-priced wines. In the meantime, stop by soon to pick up tickets for the Dec. 10 wine and food pairing that E-Ville Spirits will be hosting at Dina’s, where for $75 you’ll be treated to an Italian dinner and wines to match. You can contact Shannon, Bob or Lindsey at E-Ville Spirits at 716-699-4474 or find them on Facebook: E-Ville Spirits and Wines.