Liquor Manager Stacy Stoican fills a growler at The Cellar. Photo by Ted Olinger, KP News

Local drinkers can raise a glass to the expansion at the Key Center Food Market. In March the grocery store nearly tripled its wine, beer and liquor section, with a new section called “The Cellar,” knocking through walls to take over two adjacent storefronts that had previously been vacant.

According to Food Market operations manager Kip Bonds, customers will see two main benefits from the expansion. First, Food Market alcohol prices will be similar to those at large chain stores. Bigger stores can purchase and warehouse huge quantities of alcohol, allowing them to sell at lower retail prices. Previously, as Bonds explained, he had been paying a surcharge of about $1.50 a bottle to purchase smaller amounts. That’s gone now, and the savings will be passed on to customers.

Secondly, the market will also begin offering growlers. Growlers are glass jugs of various sizes that are purchased empty, then filled with draft beer or cider and capped to take home. Customers bring the empty growlers back for refills. The Food Market will offer 32 and 64-ounce growlers, among others, and plenty of varieties of beer.

Also coming soon is a machine allowing customers to fill 32-ounce cans with draft beer of their choice. Bonds pointed out that with many folks visiting the Key Peninsula’s beaches, cans are a more responsible choice than glass. “We also have a really nice mixer section with way more items than before,” he said.

Customers who stop by for both food and alcohol can make a quick exit with the new cash registers. The registers, which will be limited to 15 items or less, make it easy to pay for a bag of ice, chips, or other snacks along with your booze. However, if your cocktail requires limes, you’ll have to pay inside the store, as the new registers will not have scales for produce.

Down the street at the Key Peninsula Liquor Store, manager Samantha Dennis is confident the changes will not disrupt business as usual. “We’re a small community and we’re all about small business. I hope our customers stay loyal to us,” Dennis said.

Don Swensen, owner of Blend wine shop in Key Center, believes the changes will not impact his business either. “We’re in the same business but I don’t believe we’ll be in direct competition. I sell different wine and beer than them,” he said.

Local citizens had various opinions on the expansion. “Something other than more pot or liquor would have been nice,” said Key Peninsula resident Maggie Kamke.

When hiring for The Cellar, Bonds chose employees who know the Key Peninsula and have experience. “We hired local folks who know the liquor business,” he said.

The Food Market chain includes four western Washington stores: two on the Key Peninsula, one in Auburn and one in Kingston. Although there are no plans for expansion at other stores at this time, Bonds does not rule it out as a possibility. “We’ll test it here and see how it goes,” he said.

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