City’s liquor store collections show stout quarterly increase in sales taxes

Johny Carson owner of Johny’s Beer & Liquor, 666 Patterson Rd., Unit A stocks the store. Beer & liquor sales had the biggest jump in sales tax revenues

In good times people like to drink, and in bad times it appears people like to drink even more, if first-quarter sales tax revenue for the city of Grand Junction is an accurate gauge.

Sales-tax revenue for liquor stores, one of 11 categories monitored by the city, was up 12.4 percent compared to the first quarter in 2008. The city released the numbers last week, although the news was sobering for categories such as building materials, and furniture and appliances, which were down 19.1 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively, for January through March. Those categories suffered the most as the city’s sales-tax collections declined 10.7 percent overall from the first quarter of 2008, a reflection of the economic recession.

Johny Carson, owner of Johny’s Beer and Liquor, 666 Patterson Road, Unit A, said sales at his shop were up 22 percent for the first quarter this year compared to last.

“A lot of people are laid off, coming in here and spending their money on beer rather than gas to get to and from work,” he said.

Some customers have even switched brands. “They’re buying cheaper beer, more of it, and spending the same amount of money,” Carson said.

The general manager at Grand Central Liquor and Smoke Shack, 200 W. Grand Ave., James Smith, said sales at his shop are significantly better than last year.

“We haven’t seen anybody not coming in. In fact, we’ve been picking up more customers,” Smith said. “The liquor stores are depression-proof, I think.”

A major factor in Grand Central Liquor’s sales has been Sunday sales, which began halfway through 2008.

“We wouldn’t be doing as good if we didn’t have Sunday sales. Sunday sales have been a savior,” Smith said.

Although liquor stores are fortunate to be keeping busy, other retailers are relieved that even if sales are down, they haven’t plummeted.

Cathy Frederick, owner of Peach Tree True Value Hardware, 2963 North Ave., said product diversity has kept her store strong. Lumber sales are down, and she expects that to continue for the remainder of the year. Her store is benefiting now because she sells hardware products, garden supplies and home remodeling merchandise, which continue to draw customers, she said.

Frederick has noticed that contractors who come in to purchase building materials are
doing it on a smaller scale, as more people are remodeling or adding to their homes, rather than moving into newer or larger ones.

“With the housing situation like it is, people decide to stay where they are and fix it up,” Frederick said.

Kevin Meacham, manager and co-owner of American Furniture Co., 865 North Ave., said he’s seen the same trend with furniture sales. Instead of buying a new car or house, people decide to fix up their homes, which may mean buying furniture, he said. People who are shopping aren’t buying as much and are searching for lower-priced items.

“The average sale price has gone down a little bit,” Meacham said. “People are definitely more price-conscientious than they’ve been in the past.”

American Furniture Co. has been in Grand Junction for 59 years, longer than any other furniture retailer in the Grand Valley, Meacham said, and has been through economic slumps before and expects to make it again, without layoffs.

“That’s the No. 1 thing, keeping everybody employed,” he said.


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