Robert Wagner: From HoganTaylor CPAs and advisors, I’m Robert Wagner. And this is How That Happened, a business and innovation success podcast. Each episode of the show, we sit down with the business and community leaders behind thriving organizations to learn how business and innovation success actually happens. Our guest today is Tina Parkhill. Tina is the owner of Parkhill’s Liquors And Wines South, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tina has a marketing degree from Oklahoma State University and has previously worked in the professional recruiting and coaching industries.
In addition to being a business owner, Tina is very active in the nonprofit community. She is currently on the board of Family And Children’s Services, and is past president of Leadership Tulsa. Tina, welcome to the How That Happened podcast.
Tina Parkhill: Hi, Robert. Good afternoon. So glad to be here.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. We’re thrilled to have you and excited to talk about your business and your innovation and success over time. You, and I know each other from the past, you as a recruiter and leading a leadership forum, but now you’re in the spirits and liquor business. So how’d that happen?
Tina Parkhill: Well, it’s interesting. I went back to my roots. My very first job that I was recruited for from the Oklahoma State campus was with Ernest and Julio Gallo. So that was my very first job out of college. And it was very much a relationship sales experience, working with liquor store owners and collaborating with them on pricing and promotions of our existing products. And I had a great opportunity to exit that business and go into a consultative sales role for an organization that they designed through manufacturing software, CAD/CAM, as they call it. And it was just an exciting opportunity that took me away from the beverage industry, but I was very intrigued by getting back into it as a business owner.
And it’s been really exciting because I’ve been able to lead my own team, build the business from the ground up, initiate the building that I’m in in terms of the build out of it and the layout to help accommodate the sales that we have in the store, the store flow. And then, just really get to be engaged in all the decision making, everything from IT technology, to marketing, to sales promotions, to managing people, and working, of course, with the general public, which has really been something that I’ve really enjoyed.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. That’s a great foundation, because I want to get into many of those topics. But I want to chase a rabbit here. We’re both LSU grads. So while I’m over there trying to get an accounting job, the Gallo Company was also recruiting on OSU?
Tina Parkhill: Yes, they were. They actively recruited off of campuses for their entry-level sales positions.
Robert Wagner: Oh, wow.
Tina Parkhill: And as I was promoted within the company, I actually was able to go to various surrounding campuses and recruit myself for entry-level sales reps. And so that’s where they had their building ground of managers and people that they developed in their program.
Robert Wagner: Okay. All right. Well, Tina, one of the reasons I wanted to have you on was because Oklahoma’s liquor laws changed a lot last year, I think it was last year. And that creates disruption, you have to change. I just wanted to talk to you about that. So to set the context for that, how were the laws different, I guess, before this change, before they were modernized?
Tina Parkhill: Well, the most obvious is that wine and beer, and when I say beer, I mean strong beer in excess of 6%, wasn’t sold in grocery stores or convenience stores. It was just 3.2 beer. That, of course, now with the law changes, has gone away, so all the beers is like a single strength beer. But the interesting thing about that development is, oddly enough as I referenced earlier, I worked for Gallo, and I remember, and that was at this point shamefully, 26 years ago. But I remember them talking about laws changing then, and they never did because it took a vote of the people, as we all know, because everyone voted on it, and it took just a lengthy process in terms of convincing voters, having the larger entities like Walmart and QuikTrip and Costco and those types of large chains, their lobbyists and their influences to make it happen.
The interesting thing about is, I have people ask me all the time what my opinion was on the subject. And I said, “I completely appreciate and understand why people have the desire for the convenience and the modernization of the laws.” There were some things about the law changes, just because of the dynamics of large business versus small individual business owners, that there were some of the things that didn’t turn out maybe as we expected. But all in all, it really has been a low impact to my business, because I think the foundation of what we’ve developed in our location is that we have excellent service, we have a selection, and we’ve always had very good savings trying to maximize the value for our customers.
And what I’ve found, oddly enough, is that there’s a brand loyalty and there’s a loyalty to that service and that selection and that savings that really people weren’t willing to compromise. And it was really affirming to me because none of us knew in this industry, all the individual, small business owners like myself, how and why this would affect us, but we definitely knew there would be an impact. And honestly, it just really has forced us to pivot and adapt and ensure that the foundation of our businesses made us successful, that we continued to continue to exercise that care with our customers.
And it’s created a loyalty that, like I said, I just was very surprised by, but I’m so happy for. And I’m so appreciative of my consumers and the customers that come in my store and that have an interest in learning more. There’s a zeal for learning and education. And in a grocery store and a convenience store, that’s not a luxury that they’re usually afforded, just because of manpower and not because they don’t have a desire to educate their customers, but the manpower doesn’t allow them to have specialists on the floor helping them make all of those decisions. So it definitely has impacted a lot of businesses, but in my particular case, I’ve just found more brand loyalty and continued to try to keep my customers educated and informed about new products and trends and things that are going on in our industry.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. So maybe just to go a little deeper on that, how have you had to innovate? Is it going deeper in those things that you’re talking about, the education piece?
Tina Parkhill: Yeah. I have a piece of our business called Club Parkhill, and it’s basically an opportunity for people to opt in to a consumer database. And what we try to do is we inform people, provide information on new product announcements, give them information on limited product availability. We do that via Facebook and the social media outlets. We continue to ensure that we have experienced staff. The staff that I have at my store are very, very knowledgeable and incredibly passionate about what we do. We are very fortunate to have good representation from our vendors that keep us informed of products that are coming out, limited availability products, quantities that are going to be available.
And also, they collaborate and partner with us in engaging in philanthropic causes. And we do a lot of complimentary tastings that benefit philanthropies around our community that are in our community, and it allows them to come in and have an experiential learning, either with mixology type classes or just general wine tastings or beer or spirit tastings with multiple vendors. And so that’s something that was very important to us. Which is why when we initially built the building, we installed a tasting room, which is a separate part of the building, it’s unlicensed, and it allows us a venue to facilitate some of that training and education that the customers really desire and crave.
And I’ve just been very, very fortunate to have educated staff. I’ve got a sommelier on staff, I’ve got individuals that are certified in and spirits knowledge and beer knowledge and have traveled to bourbon country, wine country, have traveled even internationally to gain the experiences needed to assist our clientele as they navigate through our store and our trying to pair certain foods with wines, or just in general just entertainment, having parties and ensuring that they know what to get. We do a lot of party planning in the guise of weddings. So people come in and, hopefully most people don’t get married more than once, but it’s not something that you do to plan all of that.
And so we have a planning guide and we walk them through the store and walk them through the quantities needed, the types of products that are needed. And it really relieves the pressure off of a potential bride or groom and their families. And we just take that piece away and help plan everything. And we’re able to partner and work with our vendors and making sure we get everything in, they can pick it up, and they can have everything that they need. So we just really have a good level of service, and it’s incredibly helpful to our clients, especially when they walk in that store and we’ve got thousands and thousands of skews in the store, it can be overwhelming if you don’t really know what direction to go.
Robert Wagner: Right. How have you found those customers? Because obviously, there’s a cost to this. I mean, like Walmart doesn’t have anybody to help you find things and plan your party or anything like that, so there’s a service here that you’re paying for, I assume. How have you found those kinds of customers, I guess?
Tina Parkhill: Well, I think that the Parkhill brand has been around in Tulsa since 1963, and so there was a name brand recognition, at least for our location in particular. So that was something I was very fortunate and grateful for. The other thing is that people come and they have an experience in your store, and if it’s a positive experience, they return, if it’s not a positive experience, they don’t return. Hopefully, I have less of those in the former, but it’s just really a matter of people having experiences. An alcohol beverage purchase is a preplanned purchase, so it’s not like they’re impulse shopping at a liquor store. You’re going to a liquor store because you want a wine, a beer or a spirit. And it’s a matter of what the experience is like when they’re in there.
And we do a lot of, again, we do a lot philanthropically, so I actively market the organization throughout the community. It’s really, and honestly, it was kind of an unintended consequence of just having a philanthropic spirit. I participated on the board and chaired a number of events here in town and supported a number of causes through my business, and that’s another benefit of being attached to an industry where I can partner with my vendors, and they are very philanthropic as well. But all that to say, it’s been great for me because it gives us visibility. And it gives us, again, there are people that tell me all the time that because of the philanthropic spirit that we have within our organization, my staff collaborate with me on that, and they do things that donate their time and energy and efforts to help philanthropic causes.
Because of that, people are very appreciative, because we live, in my opinion, one of the most philanthropic cities in the country, and people really appreciate those that do for the community. And so I’ve just been really fortunate that people appreciate that. And it’s created that brand loyalty as well and created some visibility of my organization. There’s a lot of liquor stores in Tulsa, so I don’t do a lot of digital advertising or billboard advertising, but a lot of it is word of mouth. I do some print advertising in geographically located publications that are near my store. But again, it’s more just about the experience and people returning and people’s word of mouth and just having visibility of our brand in the community for so long.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. There’s a lot of great nuggets there just around the loyalty and how you build that, and some exclusivity like your special and the education piece. So lots of great nuggets. I just want to circle back to one thing, you mentioned the big box stores. In doing research about the change in the law, it’s political, so it’s a campaign on both sides. And I noted that the vote yes side, they had $5.3 million in donations, 4.9 million of which was from Walmart. Are they just the biggest competitors because they’re the biggest retailer?
Tina Parkhill: Yes. Yes. And the interesting thing about Oklahoma that most people don’t know is that, well, they probably knew before, but before the laws changed, you can only have one liquor store per person. And when the laws changed, they did allow the opportunity for liquor store owners to have two stores. But when you look at Walmart, for example, as a competitor, they can have wine and beer in 100 stores, and I can only have wine and beer and a maximum of two stores. So from just a footprint perspective… Granted, there’s liquor stores all over the city, so there is competitors everywhere. But if you talk about specifically Parkhill’s competing with Walmart, I always laughed whenever some of our vendor partners would go to the state capitol whenever there was lobbying going on and they would walk in the room.
The Retail Liquor Association is an association of liquor store owners, people like me and other individual store owners, you’d go in there and we’d have a couple of people representing us, and Walmart could have as many as 10 to 15 lobbyists in the room.
Robert Wagner: Oh, wow.
Tina Parkhill: So I always jokingly said it’s like taking a knife to a gunfight. I don’t mean be inappropriate in saying that in the times that we’re living in, but it was just really a very difficult uphill battle for us. And so I think we were very fortunate that we had someone from the Retail Liquor Association that donated his time and spent a lot of effort and energy really trying to advocate on our behalf. But it was a very difficult process to navigate, because as we all know, Walmart is a very tough negotiator and they have a lot of buying power and they have just the mass and the revenue to support what they needed to… direct as their initiatives.
I think we settled off in a place that like I said, I think that there’s a lot of stores that did go out of business, unfortunately, but there’s a lot of stores that are still doing very well. So I was very thankfully in the position where we didn’t really suffer as much as what I expected. There, was an initial setback just from the fact that it was new and different, but we eventually, those customers that were loyal to us came back, just for the many reasons that I’ve already stated in our conversation. But yeah, Walmart was definitely a challenge, but I understood their position. It’s business. And so what it forced us to do was be proactive instead of being reactive.
I already had initiated a process to buy coolers, and so when the laws changed, the minute they changed, I was turning the switch on and my coolers were cold and I was able to position myself to be competitive in that regard. And so you just had to constantly reaffirm with your customers the value proposition that you bring to the table and the benefits that they get from that one-on-one service. I think it forced us to say sharp and not be complacent.
Robert Wagner: It made you better.
Tina Parkhill: It did make us better. And then obviously with everything that’s transpired in the last six months, the laws loosened a little bit further to even allow us to make deliveries and to do curbside, which we weren’t able to do before. But that’s another great option for us, is that we’re really trying to be responsive to the client’s needs and demands during this time and making sure we have plenty of product. And so, it’s been a real interesting probably year and a half to two years. But everything has been, I think, for the better and making us, again, think differently and always be thinking ahead and never be thinking behind. And so it’s been really fun. And in my team at my store, my leadership team, one gentleman’s been with me since the beginning, so he’s been with me 10 years, and he was with the midtown location seven years before that.
And so he’s just has so much institutional and industry knowledge and a lot of great relationships, and that’s very, very valuable when you’re trying to navigate through tough waters or expected tough waters, I should say.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. So you mentioned buying power and things like that a second ago. So let’s talk about the supply chain. I think it’s a two-tier system, right? You buy at a distribution, is that-
Tina Parkhill: We buy at a distribution? I mean, technically, they would consider it three because then we sell to the consumer. But initially, before the laws changed, it was a four-tier system where you had a broker or a winery, brewery or distillery that represented the brand through a brokerage company. And then that brokerage company represented it to the wholesaler, wholesaler then to the retailer, retailer then to the consumer. Essentially, what has transpired by the wine and grocery, it’s essentially taken out a tier. There are still some smaller brokers, but really, there’s essentially three major suppliers for us in the state. And before, from a competitive standpoint, each of the vendors were allowed to represent all the brands that they chose to represent.
So they could represent, I’ll just say Crown Royal, for example, at all the major vendors that we had. Well, now, you have the actual product line isolated or exclusive to a specific supplier. So the other concern that we had, when you talk about buying power, we thought, “Well, there’s no competition anymore. What’s going to incentivize them to keep their prices in a place that is affordable and appropriate?” And the great thing about our vendor partners is they have done that. Crown Royal wants their brand to be well-represented and they want it to be in a fair price point to their consumers. We kind of borrowed trouble a little bit with that, because I don’t really think that we saw as a big of a transition as we thought we might in that regard. But yeah.
So now, it’s interesting because there’s only a singular source for products, so sometimes it makes availability a challenge. If they happen to run out, you can’t go to vendor B or C to get the product because they’re the only one that provides it. So I think even from, and I don’t want to speak on behalf of my wholesale partners, but I think in the beginning, they had some issues because they were having to navigate the supply and demand issue. Because typically, they could predict the demand at their particular organization because some people were brand loyal to the wholesaler so they weren’t buying from other wholesalers, they’re buying everything from them.
Well, now everyone’s buying one product from them, so they had to really adjust their frame of mind of, “Oh gosh, maybe we need to order two or three times what we normally have ordered because now everyone’s buying that one product through us?” So they even I think had some transitions and then some systems changes. And so ordering was a challenge for a while with the databases that they had converted to because they were more of a national chain now? Anyway, it’s been really, really navigable, but it certainly has not been without hiccups or bumps, but I think for the most part, again, we’ve weathered the storm. And I think that we’re just really excited about the future and the ability to continue to service our clients at a very high level and try to provide them the products that they need and want.
The only thing about Oklahoma as it relates to supply and demand is sometimes as a matter of priority, we aren’t on the highest of the list. So there are products sometimes that become very, very popular that are all of a sudden, very difficult to get. And that’s frustrating for the consumer, but it’s really just a supply chain issue not the store is not having the available product, which is, we can’t buy it because it’s not in the state. Again, it’s all very navigable and we’re working through all those things as they come our way.
Robert Wagner: So if I’m a wholesaler, I’m bound by the state line?
Tina Parkhill: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Robert Wagner: Yeah. Okay. What is that relationship like? Are you negotiating prices all the time, and is that-
Tina Parkhill: No, the prices are set forth by the vendors. We are not in a position to leverage any bulk quantity discounting, it’s not a benefit that’s available to us just because of the nature of the laws. And I probably couldn’t even quote or tie it back to why it’s that way. And we don’t have terms, everything that we purchase is cash on delivery. So when it crosses our threshold, so every bottle that’s literally sitting in my store right now, I own.
Robert Wagner: You own it.
Tina Parkhill: Now, the wholesalers get terms from their vendors, their national vendor partners, but we don’t get terms. And that was something that wasn’t negotiated with the law changes. But in all fairness, Walmart and all those larger entities, they don’t get bulk quantity discounts either, so that is a fair playing field for both of us, but it would be nice if you bought 50 cases of something versus one case that you got a discount on it, but you don’t.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. Or just the ability to run a special or something like that, right?
Tina Parkhill: Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. The one thing that I can say that we do it, and not to get too much into the weeds, but there is an element of our business called bridge buying. And vendors typically change their prices, some change them every month or every other month. So a product that may be, just say $20 a bottle, will now be $22 a bottle. If you’re able to leverage some of your buying options and you what we call buy up, we’re able to buy up additional quantities so that we can keep our prices very fluid and very flat. We try not to ebb and flow a whole lot, especially on those major brands that are high volume for us, we will try to “buy up” so that we can keep the prices fairly transparent to the customer, unless there’s just a major change.
Sometimes there are vendors that have a significant change in their pricing, and you really are forced to make a price change. Sometimes it’s a permanent up or a permanent down, but that’s the other thing that my buying manager, my operations manager, keeps tabs on so that he knows ahead what we need to be buying and what we need to be looking at. And then of course, we wish we could buy up on everything, but we have to look at really what’s present in our day-to-day sales. And that’s where your banking partnerships come into play too, because our bankers allow us the opportunity to have operating lines of credit, and it allows us to do some of those things. I’ve got a very solid banking relationship with Blue Sky Bank. And so, I’m really happy and pleased that they’ve partnered with me and understanding my business and knowing how I can run the business efficiently, effectively, and then maintain that customer loyalty.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. Now, are you guys selling the craft beers that are made more locally and is distribution different for that situation?
Tina Parkhill: It’s not really different in that situation, but yes, we do. Actually, at our store in the South Tulsa area that whole product line is a really huge interest for our clients and customers. Again, my operations manager who’s been in the industry for a very long time is also a connoisseur of craft beers himself. And so he has a great deal of passion for that sector of the business and works very closely with our vendor partners to understand what’s coming out. And there are some things that are highly allocated, but now, we find that the bourbon craze has really hit.
And so, there’s just in every division, spirits and beer and wine, there’s just certain products that are in high demand. And so again, my team does a great job of staying abreast of the information available in regard to releases because the releases that are available are very limited, and we try to collaborate and work with our vendors as best we can to make sure that we order it when immediately when it’s available, if it’s an option. And our consumers and our clients do really appreciate that.
Robert Wagner: I said at the onset, you and I first met when you were doing recruiting and coaching and running forums and things like that. How are you using those skills today?
Tina Parkhill: It’s so interesting, I participate on a lot of boards. I’ve been president of a number of boards, I sit on a number of boards and I work with a lot of non-profit entities. And some of the major decisions that we’ve made in these nonprofit organizations is hiring and even termination decisions. And so, it’s been very, very helpful to have had that, specifically for the volunteer board experience, but even for my own internal staff and team and taking those moments that you can to coach and mentor them, obviously, anytime you have employees, sometimes you will have issues and trying to work through those issues, trying to mediate, you’re kind of the mediation side of things, facilitating, developing people, having them grow professionally, especially since I’ve had some people that have worked for me since I’ve been open.
And so, we’re not a large organization, there’s not a lot of opportunity for advancement in our organization, but I still take a great deal of pride in those moments, those teaching moments and those opportunities to help people stretch and change their way of thinking. I’m all about empowerment and I’m very, very transparent with my team about what’s going on in our business, because I feel like that knowledge can be very powerful and it can always make you very accountable too. And so I operate under that theory and really want people to take ownership of their decisions and the things that they do on a day-to-day basis.
So having that coaching and human relations and hiring and firing background has helped me across the board. And hopefully, my team appreciates it.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. I’m sure they do. I’m sure they do. Tina, it seems like that you are not physically tied to the store. My sense is you’re not there very much, which I think is fantastic. Is that true?
Tina Parkhill: Well, not really, I’m there every day, but I affectionately say, and we’ve heard this in business before, but I work on the business. I have a great team of people that work in the business. And so I’m really the external face of our brand, and I specifically participate in philanthropic causes because I just enjoy that. And it’s something now that I own my own business, I have the luxury to do. If I didn’t have the team in place that I have, there’s no way I could do the things that I do externally to the company, but the days of me slugging 50 pound cases all over the store is over.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. Well, that’s what I wanted to draw out because I think there’s so many folks no matter what their business, but I think, especially in retail, they just live there. So was that true in the beginning?
Tina Parkhill: It was definitely true in the beginning, and once we were able to develop our team and get everyone educated and give them a lot of product knowledge, it made it a lot easier for me to pull away. And again, it goes back to that empowerment, I just don’t really feel like… I don’t want to manage by shadowing them around, I want them to make their decisions. I get enough just because of all the people that are in the store and how connected I am in the community, I hear lots of feedback. So, I definitely know that we’re doing a good job, otherwise I would probably be more engaged in the day-to-day.
I will say this though, I do enjoy interfacing with the customers, I have a lot of my personal friends and people that I’ve made acquaintance with over the years personally and professionally that shop in my store. And it really does please me to be able to come in and walk around the store and just have conversations with people and reconnect. I’ve always enjoyed helping people, and I think that’s why I’m a philanthropist, I think that’s why I enjoy recruiting because I help people find great jobs. I help you find people whenever you are hiring, and I enjoy that.
I was very fulfilled by problem solving and helping people. And so, being in the retail environment is a real natural fit for me because of that, but obviously being in retail, sometimes you have people that are unreasonable, but the art of that is trying to sometimes reason with the unreasonable and to try to mediate that situation and diffuse it as best you can. And that’s one of the things that my team is really good in doing. And not that we’ve done everything right, we’ve had to dissatisfied customers leave the store, and I’ve had a lot of emails sent to me or Facebook messages. Those are great opportunities, to me, those are learning opportunities and opportunities to figure out how to do things differently or better.
And if you’re not constantly trying to enhance or enrich your processes, you are going to get stagnant. And so I hate to say that I like it when I get something like that interjected into our day, every so often, but it’s just a gentle reminder that don’t get too complacent, always be thinking about how you can excel with your service or even excel in handling a tough situation if a customer is displeased in some way
Robert Wagner: Do you study the demographics of your customers? Is there any themes to that?
Tina Parkhill: I really feel like we have customers, across section of customers across the board. So much in a liquor store and Tulsa is convenience and location and geography. So when you look at the demographic of who’s in my area in South Tulsa, South Memorial, you’ve got individuals who does two incomes, kids in high school or grade school, there are some people that are in retirement age that do come in, but we really do have a pretty specified customer. And it reflects in our product categories because there’s certain products that we don’t carry just because we don’t have a demand forum in that area. And you will find, if you talk to 10 liquor stores all across the city, they would tell you the same thing.
They have a different demographic in every location, but I’m really fortunate because what that does do is having a good sense for who are our customers in the demographic that we’re serving allows us to be very, very finite in our buying. We always custom order anything if we don’t have it in the store and we don’t have a spot on the shelf, we will always do custom orders for anybody, but for the most part, it allows us from day-to-day ordering perspective and on-the-ready on-the-shelf, we can buy really smart. And so yeah, I would say it does vary, but for the most part, it’s probably that 35, 30 to 35, to 55, 60-year-old, that is shopping in our store.
And we have a lot of… It’s interesting too, because our time of day where we’re the busiest is usually between like 4:00 and 7:00. So that’s why I know we have a lot of professional people that are catching us on their way home. And that’s when our highest transaction count occurs is during that timeframe. And so yeah, I think we have a pretty good feel for what to expect. And then there’s also the element of seasonality, we know seasonally what’s available, that’s maybe in limited supply, but we also know what our clients are interested in at certain times of the year. So that allows us to do a great job in our buying as well.
And again, I’m very fortunate because my team is very experienced and they’ve gone through a number of seasons, so they’re very, very on top of it, and they do a great job of managing that at a reason level.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. What’s happening in consumption trends?
Tina Parkhill: You mean, during COVID?
Robert Wagner: Yeah.
Tina Parkhill: Because I was going to say consumption is way up during COVID.
Robert Wagner: So, they weren’t joking about that, but you’re actually seeing that, right?
Tina Parkhill: Oh, no. I jokingly say this, but I say, “There’s nothing like homeschooling your children that might drive you to the liquor store in the middle of the day.” And I say that very playfully because I’m sure it’s a privilege for some people to homeschool their children, and I know that you experience that yourself, but for those people that are professional people that are now having to work from home and try to accommodate schoolwork for their children, I’ve found that there’s a lot of people that good, bad or indifferent, or are enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day. And/or what you’re finding is a lot of people are entertaining at home and they’re not going out to dinner as much and they’re not going out socially as much.
And so, we’ve had a really fun experience with some of my consumers that have had a desire to do like a virtual wine tasting. So sommelier was online with some of my friends and each of them, it was couples, it was a couples tasting, but he picked three different wines that they could try that night. And he encouraged them to allow them to get their own charcuterie board or just offered up some recommendations of food items, snack items that might taste good with the wine or compliment the wine. And then he went through a complete tasting virtually, and it was really, really fun. And so we’ve been seeing a lot of that.
We’ve had more than one, but those types of creative ways of still trying to engage socially with your friends, but protecting yourself with that social distancing and just not having large groups of people in the same place has really been one of the ways in which we’ve adapted to accommodate during this time. And yes, consumption is up, and I think a lot of it’s just because people are consuming at home more than they’re consuming out.
Robert Wagner: Probably some disposable income that wasn’t there too, if they were elsewhere eating out.
Tina Parkhill: Yes, exactly. Obviously some people have been furloughed or jobs have been limited or whatnot, but by the same token, you’re right, I think nobody’s getting their clothes dry cleaned, they’re not having to spend money on gas. So, you’re right, they’re just taking that disposable income and redirecting it to some extent. But you know what’s been so fun though, is that a lot of people are doing things, making beverages or doing mixology classes or preparing cocktails that they never would’ve prepared before. It’s like a lot of my friends are saying they’re baking and they’re cooking at home and they’re experimenting with new recipes, same thing with the liquor and beverage industry.
We’ve had demand for mixers that literally we only have a demand for Christmas and very little demand. And now we’re having a demand since the spring, and my operations manager, again, who is an expert buyer for me, is like, “I don’t even know how to predict what to buy in some cases,” because people are just doing different things. So, it’s just creating some opportunities for people to get together with their families or friends, either virtually or smaller groups and enjoy and have some fun and be creative with some of the things that they’re doing that are interactive as it relates to preparing cocktails and getting together.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. So setting COVID and Zoom meetings and stuff aside, how is technology impacting your business?
Tina Parkhill: We don’t do any online sales because that’s not an option that’s afforded to us because it’s not legal for us to do online transactions. So honestly, technology has really, apart from our point of sale system, which is fairly complex, but our point of sale system and our ordering from our vendors, we really don’t have a lot of technological demands. There’s a lot of things I wish we could do, but we’re not really allowed to do because of the laws. I don’t know if internet commerce would be the most fun thing, because then you’d have to package it and ship it and all of that, but really, we don’t have a lot of demands as it relates to that at all. So that is one of the bullets I get to dodge because that’s not an area of my expertise.
I have an outside IT consultant who helps me a lot with those types of skills and things that I need in that regard, but for the most part, we don’t really have any major demands on technology.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. So you cannot sell on the internet, but is the internet a competitor?
Tina Parkhill: Well, because of the law changes, there is an allowance for the opportunity for people to be a part of wine clubs and things like that, and they’re able to get items shipped in the state, which in my opinion, if somebody goes to California and they go to an exclusive winery that’s not represented in Oklahoma, as a connoisseur, if you want to have an exclusive wine or a small production wine, I see no reason why somebody shouldn’t have that ability to do that. And that was another one of the unknowns and the areas that maybe we borrowed a little bit of trouble, but I don’t really think that we’ve seen a real dip in our sales due to the competitive influence of online purchasing.
Again, we’re really fortunate in that regard, now, that may change, who knows, but to date, we haven’t seen any major negative impact.
Robert Wagner: Everyone’s talking about disruption, I guess you had some because of the law change, but do you see something coming down the road that’s potentially going to disrupt the retail liquor business?
Tina Parkhill: There is the question of whether or not they’ll ever integrate spirits into the grocery store and convenience stores, because in other states they do have the ability to sell those items. I think it’s not eminent, but it’s definitely, I’m sure being talked about already by some of the big box stores we’ve mentioned earlier, but I definitely think that would be an influence that might be a little bit more disruptive because to the extent, we have the exclusivity on spirits right now for the only place that sells spirits, it allows people to come in our store and we still get a lot of that crossover buying.
Robert Wagner: So they want both?
Tina Parkhill: If they want both, they’ll come to my store. If we take out that exclusivity, yes, there could be some negative impact on our business. Again, we just are going to continue to focus on our brand and focus on the selection, the service and the savings as best we can and try to keep that brand loyalty. And so, that’s the heart and soul of how we operate our business. We always have said that Parkhill’s isn’t your ordinary liquor store, and we try to abide by that, is kind of mantra for us. So we always want to continue to innovate and do things differently, always have that highest level of service that we can offer, and the availability of products.
And being able to deliver and do curbside has been a real added benefit, I mean, all the stores get to do that, but we’ve seen a lot of people take advantage of that. And I’m happy about that because I want people to be safe and I want them to feel comfortable in our store and being able to get what they need in a safe way. But yeah, I think of spirits eventually ekes its way into the grocery market, the big chain market. It could really be a damaging effect on us, but I’m not close enough to the pulse and it’s not trouble I’m ready to borrow now, so I haven’t really thought about it a whole lot. But really, that’s probably the, in my opinion, the single most concerning perspective change that could affect us.
Robert Wagner: Okay. Well, Tina, this has been a great conversation, I really enjoyed all the nuggets around customer service, the customer experience and all that. I think there’s a lot of great takeaways for our audience there. So thank you for that. So, we are coming to the close of our discussion and as you know, we ask every guest five questions.
Tina Parkhill: Oh boy. Okay.
Robert Wagner: Are you ready?
Tina Parkhill: I’m ready. Go.
Robert Wagner: What was the first way you made money?
Tina Parkhill: Babysitting? It was 13 and I babysat for my principal of my junior high. And that was very scary, let me tell you.
Robert Wagner: No. No pressure.
Tina Parkhill: I was trying to do a very good job of babysitting, but yes, when I was 13, I started babysitting for my junior high principal.
Robert Wagner: What was the going rate?
Tina Parkhill: You know what, I want to think it was $5 an hour maybe, if even that. Maybe at three, I can’t even remember, it’s been so long ago.
Robert Wagner: Okay. If you were not running Parkhill’s, what do you think you would be doing?
Tina Parkhill: I would definitely still be in a consultative sales role. I’ve spent most of my experience in sales, consulting with clients, solving problems, helping them fix things. I would probably still be in recruiting and placement because I enjoy that very much.
Robert Wagner: All right. Question three is, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Tina Parkhill: Continue to dream big, nothing is impossible.
Robert Wagner: Were you a big dreamer at 20?
Tina Parkhill: I was a big dreamer at 20.
Robert Wagner: Okay. What were some of the dreams?
Tina Parkhill: Well, it’s interesting, I was raised by a single mom, my dad left when I was five years old and my mom, she encouraged me to be fiercely independent. And so really, I started working when I was 13, I paid my way through college. I paid through most of my high school. I’ve always financed things on my own, I’ve been very, very independent. But I would say that, I really wanted to get into international marketing. I got a minor in Russian in college and unfortunately at the time, the economy in Russia was bad and it wasn’t going to work out. But I did dream big. I wanted to be engaged internationally in a marketing position.
And oddly enough, I wound up getting my job at Gallo because at the time, it was there and it was a place to start, but I definitely wanted to be able to have an impact internationally. And I really have always wanted to strive to own my own business. I’ve had a lot of very good mentors in my career that are individuals that were in corporate America that transitioned into their own business, and they were a motivation to me, and they were an example for me. And they were very supportive of me whenever I decided to own my own business. And so that’s kind of that.
Robert Wagner: That’s good. What will the title of your book be?
Tina Parkhill: I would say persistence, the art of never giving up.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. How has that shown through over time?
Tina Parkhill: Well, I think that I have always thought that, again, as I said earlier, nothing is impossible. And now, granted, I’m not going to be a WNBA player or a professional golfer and things like that, but I have always thought that I could do anything that I put my mind to, even if I was limited in some way, shape or form. And I’ve just never been afraid of any challenge, I’ve never been afraid to make a phone call, I’ve never been afraid to ask anybody. In the philanthropic world, I’m not afraid to ask for money or services or kindness or participation. I’m just not afraid.
Robert Wagner: That’s cool. Well, you said you wouldn’t be in the NBA or whatever, but I do think you own like Tulsa Recreational Tennis?
Tina Parkhill: In my mind.
Robert Wagner: Rumor has it.
Tina Parkhill: Well, reverse could always be very false too.
Robert Wagner: Okay. Last question. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Tina Parkhill: Well, I don’t mean to be redundant, but it’s just never give up, always have hope. Again, I’ve had a lot of people that have been very successful in business that have always told me, if someone’s telling me no, stop me from moving forward, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And so I would say that I just never take no for an answer. I always know there’s a way, where there’s a will, there is a way. And that’s just how I operate every single day, that’s what I try to instill in my children. I try to empower my friends, my family, because I feel that with confidence, so many things can be accomplished. And even if there are roadblocks, there’s still creative ways so you can figure out how to navigate around it.
Robert Wagner: Okay. Tina, thanks so much for being with us. I really enjoyed the conversation.
Tina Parkhill: Thank you. It’s so good to see you, and I appreciate being here.
Robert Wagner: Yeah. Thanks so much.
Tina Parkhill: All right.
Robert Wagner: That’s all for this episode of How That Happened. Thank you for listening. Be sure to visit howthathappened.com for show notes and additional episodes. You can also subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. Thanks for listening.
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Tina Parkhill is a graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) and started her career in 1994, working for Ernest & Julio Gallo winery. After spending several years working in sales and management roles for solutions based companies, Tina decided to return to the liquor business and open Parkhill’s Liquors & Wine South on April 4, 2011.
In addition to juggling the balance of family and work, Tina is also committed to giving back to the community. She is heavily involved in the Tulsa County Oklahoma State University Alumni Chapter and Family & Children’s Services.
In this episode, Tina reveals what it was like to build her business from the ground up, how the changing liquor laws have forced them to adapt, and how important experience is for her employees.
- Parkhill’s Liquors & Wine South: https://www.parkhillssouth.com/index.html
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/parkhillssouthliquor/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ParkhillsSouth/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/parkhillssouth
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