By Alex Lippa
---- — Since the beginning of this month, Wally Heinrich has noticed a change in the alcohol deliveries he receives at Atkinson Country Club.
“Our deliveries are coming a day or two late,” said Heinrich, food and beverage manager at the country club. “When you’re used to a seamless process, when that doesn’t happen, it’s a little unsettling.”
The delayed deliveries are the result of a big change occurring at the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. The commission is transferring all its products from a warehouse in Nashua to a new, 247,000-square-foot distribution facility in Bow run by Exel, a logistics company, as part of a 20-year contract. Exel also started coordinating the delivery of the products from Bow to the state’s 77 liquor outlets as of Nov. 1.
In the first 30 months of the new contract, the commission projects approximately $3 million in savings as a result of the new contract. The commission projects its business partners and consumers will save approximately $4 million in the same period of time.
New Hampshire Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica said yesterday the transition has hit a few bumps.
“In a transition of this size, there are going to be some challenges,” Mollica said. “We feel we are addressing items as they see them.”
Mollica said nearly a million cases of products are being stored in the Bow facility, including 750,000 that are being transferred from Nashua.
“We have 10 tractor trailer loads a day, transferring products from Nashua,” he said. “We have more loads coming from all over the world, and we have to replenish our outlets and licensees. If there is an opportunity for a bottleneck to happen, this is the time it’s going to take place.”
Andy Day, owner of the Cask and Vine in downtown Derry, said the process has been frustrating.
“It used to be a very simple process,” Day said. “I used to order it by a certain time and it would be ready. Now, we have to make an appointment and provide our license number and business name several times. But the biggest frustration is that after that, our order still hasn’t even been picked. I’ve got all of my paperwork ready and then things still aren’t ready and it’s chaos.”
There are some products he hasn’t even been able to get this month, Day said.
“We had a French wine dinner and we wanted to get a few bottles of Grand Cru,” he said. “From what I understood, it was just sitting on a truck somewhere, waiting to be transferred.”
Heinrich said he had to go to a liquor store to purchase wine himself.
“It’s a little more inconvenient,” he said. “I’ve had to pick up anywhere from 10 to 30 bottles. You’ve got to pack it up and bring it back yourself, as opposed to it already being packed and delivered.”
Despite the inconvenience, Heinrich said he expected some problems.
“I understand that it’s quite a big undertaking,” he said. “Through conversations with the state and the delivery agency, they understand the challenges. Hopefully, it’s fixed sooner rather than later.”
Mollica said Dec. 1 is his target date to complete the transition.
“That’s the date we’d like to complete getting all the cases in here,” he said. “We want to have a clear delivery schedule for the holiday season and be able to free up some extra labor in the warehouse. I feel it’s a realistic date; we’ve come a long way in two and a half weeks.”
Not everyone has had problems. Phil Mastroianni of Fabrizia Spirits in Salem said the transition has gone better than expected.
“There was a bump or two, where things might have been a little behind,” Mastroianni said. “But I feel they did a really good job doing it as easy as possible for local suppliers, especially considering the magnitude of what they did.”
Joe LaRocca, president of Horizon Beverage Company, is one of the largest wine distributors in New Hampshire. He said things have gotten smoother since the beginning of the month.
“It’s been continuous improvement,” he said. “But I spent (yesterday) in some state liquor stores and pretty much everything was fully stocked with some great displays.”
Earlier this month, LaRocca said, he hand delivered some of his products to Exel in Bow.
“We had received a call from a restaurant who was having trouble getting something,” he said. “So, I got in my car and personally delivered 10 cases of wine to the facility. The restaurant called a couple days later and they were able to get what they wanted.”
For Day, problems still exist.
“This is huge because we are right in the midst of the holiday season,” he said. “It’s the worst timing ever.”
Mollica said the timing was coincidental and no time would be ideal to make such a big change.
“I don’t think there really is any good time to make a logistic move of this period,” he said. “We are in the retail business. We are just trying to make this as seamless as possible.”