Beer is Love, Sez Duane Reade to W’Burg

2011 January 17
by Turk Studzel

64-ounce Beer = Peace & Love

What’s the key to a young hipster’s heart? “Beer, beer, and more beer,” say Duane Reade’s marketing experts in a recent profile of the drug chain’s new 24-hr. Bedford Avenue store. Threatened with boycotts and worse by local residents, Duane Reade has responded by outfitting its new location with a “beer cave” and tasting bar that offers 64 oz. take-out “growlers” to the neighborhood’s restless, thirsty, and hard-to-please youth. According to “A Duane Reade in Brooklyn With a Beer Bar” (NY Times, 1/13/11), this strategy promises to forge a lasting peace between the Walgreen’s-owned mega-corporation and the Williamsburg community—quelling a potential rebellion, highlighted here in the WBO, from those residents fearing “strip-mallification” and “assimilation to the Corporate Hive-Mind.”

The New York Times:

“We knew we would have a little bit of a battle to try to bring Duane Reade into this community, because they really don’t like a chain store,” said Paul Tiberio, senior vice president for merchandising and marketing at the company.

The Williamsburg beer bar is part of a larger effort by Duane Reade to recognize — and capitalize — on the fierce identity and local needs of many New York City neighborhoods.

“With each of our newer stores, we’re trying to find what works in our community,” Mr. Tiberio said. And in Williamsburg, “this was an area that was devoid of opportunities for beer,” he said.

In Williamsburg, as the Duane Reade was being built across the street from the mom-and-pop Kings Pharmacy, bloggers and Facebook groups started to rally against the new store.

“The opposition was coming from blogs, but it was more the concept of Duane Reade or what they thought Duane Reade was going to be here,” said Paul Clark, Duane Reade’s vice president for marketing.

By offering beer, along with items like groceries, Duane Reade could differentiate itself from Kings and seem less of a threat.

“It’s really a young hipster community so we thought it would work well,” Mr. Clark said.

Duane Reade executives said that the Williamsburg store was now the chain’s top location for beer sales, and that the average amount spent per visit at the store had risen since opening, as more people try the beer. Still, Mr. Tiberio said Duane Reade was considering this a one-off project.

“We wanted to keep it very community focused,” he said.

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