Upgrades in the North Country

It might seem curious at first that the manager of the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet in Lancaster doesn’t drink wine or spirits — until you ask her for a specific recommendation. That’s when Carol Taylor’s analytical approach becomes a value to customers.

Taylor, manager of the newly-renovated store in this North Country town, has allergies that prevent her from sampling the wines she often recommends, but she can identify characteristics and pairings as well as any oenophile. She cites New Hampshire Liquor Commission training and a knack for listening to her customers as to how she and her team can provide such personalized service.

“I go by what people tell me,” Taylor says. “People love to tell you about their purchases. If someone has a great wine, they’ll tell you about it.”

Taylor started her nine-year career in the Berlin Outlet, later became a manager in Whitefield and found herself in Lancaster 18 months ago. It was there that her team of five part-timers and two full-timers began preparing for a slate of upgrades and improvements. Work on store renovations began just after Labor Day, and were completed in October.

“We’ve expanded,” Taylor says. “We’re almost twice the size now. There are new ceilings, new floors, new walls — everything is new. It’s gorgeous and customers have said they think it’s stunning. One woman said she’s thrilled because she can try new wines now and she doesn’t have to go to Littleton to do that.”

That’s been the biggest benefit of the recent upgrades, according to Taylor.

“We have an extensive line of wines now that we have so much more room,” she says. “We’ve always had a good selection, but never to this extent. We’ve always been a store with a lot of spirits, but now we’ve got the wines to match it.”

Among those — the Ménage á Trois Red Blend, which led to a recent memorable exchange that ended up in Taylor’s virtual tasting notes file.

“A woman came in from Gorham and asked if I had tried it,” she says. “I said I hadn’t, and she said, ‘you don’t know what you’re missing.’ She and her girlfriends play cards every week, and this was the wine for their card night. She went on and on about it, and said that she could taste the berries and she could taste the nuttiness — and this is exactly the kind of thing I remember that allows me to make great recommendations.”

The approach extends to her team, which includes full-timers Natalie Duffy and Melissa Provencher. When Taylor was looking to add to the team, she sought out people who like the work, but who also enjoyed working with the public. That approach, she says, is what creates a welcoming atmosphere at the store.

“I have a great team — they’re awesome,” she says. “They fit in perfectly. Everybody knows their job and everybody enjoys their job.”

Which, naturally, creates a comfortable familiarity for customers who return to catch- up with the team. Many are on a first-name basis with Taylor, Duffy and Provencher, and quite often share family news and updates. The clientele is made up of a combination of Lancaster residents, families heading north for vacations and a growing number of snow machine enthusiasts on their way to Pittsburgh during the colder months. This winter, when those visitors step through the front doors, they’ll find a brighter, larger, expanded Outlet on the way to their destination.

“It’s just so much bigger,” Taylor says. “The North Country has never had anything like this.”

From Celebrate Magazine.