It began with a potato.
No, seriously. Stick with us, as it’s hard to tell the story of the Liquor Shed without talking about potatoes. Why? Because the parent operation that began next door to the cavernous Jandakot retailer is the Spud Shed, a large scale, “farm to customer” company that’s grown considerably in size and influence throughout Western Australia.
The man behind its success is Tony Galati, a potato farmer and larger-than-life character whose no BS attitude single-handedly forced the deregulation of the entire WA potato industry. It was a success that coincided with the rise of his star as a local celebrity: he’s appeared, Bill Murray-like, as himself at Tony Galati-themed house parties, raised close to $50,000 for Movember (at time of writing) and been lionised at the celebrated Fringe Festival gig Tony Galati, The Musical.
As for the business where it all started, it’s located just off the freeway 15 minutes south of Perth. In its early years, the Spud Shed provided an avenue for small wine producers to sell directly to the public and, as the business grew, it became evident customers in the region were in need of a dedicated liquor store. As a result, the efficiently named Liquor Shed was launched in 2013, built upon existing relationships so strong that some of the original producers they worked with still only sell their wares at this one store.
So, on to the beer side of the business. In many ways, the evolution of the range at the Liquor Shed mimics the rise of craft beer in Australia. Beginning with half an aisle of mainly Belgian beers and a few American imports back in 2013, within five years this had grown to two full aisles of beer centred on Australian and Kiwi releases. Ever-expanding fridge doors house the local craft range in front of a massive cool room – and we mean massive – filled with volume sellers; taken together, the selection edges close to one thousand different beers.
Late in 2018, the team installed a six-tap growler system, one of which is labelled the People’s Tap. In a generous move to support the scene and encourage customers to try new beers, this tap is run at near cost – regardless of what’s pouring – and this ethos extends to 25 percent off growler fills from the other taps every Monday night. The taps also give staff the opportunity to host the sort of tap takeover events typically only seen at beer bars.
As the store’s sixth anniversary approached, plans were underway to incorporate the growler system into the generous tasting area at the front of the store in order to showcase the best in beer, potentially alongside high end whisky and wine pairings. Indeed, craftier wine has been carving out its own growing niche, an evolution that mirrors the explosion of craft beer within the shed.
There’s no denying the Liquor Shed is a volume business, one that’s a very different proposition to the majority of independent retailers that offer such a vast array of quality beer. However, its expansive range and keen local focus ensure it’s well placed to support and educate a growing number of customers in the Southern Corridor, itself one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. And to think it all began with a humble potato…