Spirits West, the home of Fine Wine, Rare Whisky, Craft Beer opened in 1997. In 2014, Konopaki purchased the store. By then he had more than 25 years in the restaurant business. After selling his last restaurant in 2013, he was ready for an engaging career that provided better work/life balance so he could enjoy more time with his children. Spirits West was the ideal solution.
“Alberta has one of the largest selections in Canada,” he says. “We have 17,000 bottles of wine at any given time, hundreds of craft beers, and thousands of whiskies to choose from. Everything is tasted and hand selected. That’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes to find the great products, so that is what we do.”
Konopaki ensures his store is for everyone’s tastes and budgets, providing incredible value at every price point. That value extends to the non-drinkers too. Knowing that everyone wants a great beverage for special occasions or a nice bottle to enjoy during a night in, he ensures his top-notch selection of non-alcoholic wines and beer gets the same amount of curation and attention.
“That fact is,” he explains, “there are hundreds of liquor stores in the driveable area. What sets us apart is the experience. That is why our store is unique in décor, hand-curated selection, and outstanding service. When I bought the store, I gutted it because I wanted it to look unlike anything our customers had seen before. Ambience is very important to me; the store needed to be welcoming.”
It’s no secret that the business landscape overall is changing. In addition to impacts on shipping and inflation, drinking trends among young adult Canadians are trending down. Since Spirits West is focused on its customers, Konopaki’s response is to provide an elevated selection for adults that don’t consume alcohol. To him, it’s all part of the positive experience of Spirits West – being able to enjoy time in the store, comfortably, and finding something special no matter the preference.
“I encourage people to ‘drink better’,’” he says. “People need to think about what they are putting in their glass, whether it contains alcohol or not. There are, for example, lots of cheaply mass-produced beverages. Spend a little more to ensure you are getting something healthier and that you are getting an enjoyable experience. This is why we hand select, taste, and vet every item in our store. We don’t want you to be fooled by drinks that are loaded with sugar. No matter the price, there is a difference between a product that is made with attention and care, and one that is not. I actually encourage people to drink less, but drink better.”
In addition to providing each customer with the products they want and the experience they deserve, Konopaki supports the community in a very unique way. “I love the live music business and try to support our local live musicians as much as possible.”
As he reflects on his time running Spirits West, being forward-thinking on trends, and curating an experience that is unforgettable, Konopaki thanks his wife and family for their unwavering support, the local community that consistently chooses Spirits West, and the many tourists that spread the word about his store. Come visit us in Bragg Creek!