City crafts a new way to boost revenue

By Per Peterson

While sales at the Tracy Municipal Liquor Store, Boxcar Liquors, are down from a year ago, they remain robust. And the City has come up with a unique plan to make things even better: selling its own craft beer.

Liquor store manager Tam Schons presented the idea to the Tracy City Council at Monday’s meeting, introducing Boxcar Brew, a new Tracy-based label for a craft beer to be sold in Tracy. The liquor store is working with Brau Brothers of Marshall on the project.

“They’ve never done this before for anybody,” Schons said. “We’re the first. When I first brought it to them they talked about doing growlers, but we decided that doesn’t work for us because it only has a two-week shelf life and we didn’t want to do that.”

Schons offered a number of reasons why wholesale and retail sales are lagging from last year, including the economy and the weather. Sales in April were at $60,420, compared to $64,410 at this time last year. Sales were also down in January, February and March of this year.

“The weather has not been in our favor,” she said. “The weekend that we had really good weather, we had great sales, then we went right back to the cold weather. It affects our sales, big time.”

Schons said even though the most recent numbers might not paint the best picture, the overall trend over the last six-plus years is a good one.

“In 2016 and ’17, we had a negative $37,000 and $43,000 — three, four years after we had a positive of $77,877 … our liquor store’s going in the right direction,” said Schons. “The economy right now is not helping, but the liquor store is going in the right direction.”

Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen said the current economy is having a significant impact on Tracy as a whole.

“We know that the economy for the entire country shrunk in the first quarter,” he said. “We know that we’re seeing the highest inflation numbers that we’ve seen in 40 years. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the efforts of turning around the liquor store that Tam has shown in the last few years.”

The City is hoping upcoming events will foster that upward trend. The June 4 Burgers, Bands and Brews event, Schons said, could give the store a big boost, as should the second annual Aloha Night on July 22.

And, the City hopes, its new Boxcar Brew venture will go a long way to continuing the liquor store’s overall recent success.

“We’re in a situation where we’re not quite meeting our sales goals, but whenever you have adversity, that’s always an opportunity to try something new and something interesting,” said Hansen. “No liquor store in the state has ever done this before. We can have our own Boxcar Brew, and sell it during Box Car Days and all year-round. We’re not going to rest on our laurels from the success that we’ve had the last couple years … we’re going to do our best to try and overcome a pretty strong headwind we’re facing right now in the economy.”

Hansen reminded the council how important it is for people to shop locally, as every dollar spent at Boxcar Liquors “reduces the amount of taxes our citizens have to pay,” he said.

The liquor store will go back to summer hours starting this weekend — opening until 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on Saturday. The store will continue to be open on Sundays.

In other news from Monday’s meeting …

• During a public hearing Monday, Bollig Engineering presented an outline for the City’s upcoming Wellhead Protection Plan, which needs to be completed every 10 years as required by the Minnesota Department of Health. Jonathon Fleck of Bollig said the City’s drinking water system is in good shape and is considered to have a “low vulnerability setting.”

“With your geological barrier, there is no risk to the City’s municipal water supply,” Fleck said.

• The council accepted a $500 donation from the Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce to be used to pay for the watering of hanging plants in town.

• Hansen called the weekend of Burgers, Bands and Brews a kick-off to summer in Tracy, as another “Movie in the Park” will take place on June 3 and with the aquatic center opening June 4. The movie this time around will be “The Little Rascals.”

• The council approved a resolution to enter into a cooperative construction agreement with Lyon County for Center St. work. The council had previously authorized and approved the plans and specs for the street reconstruction; Center St. is a county highway, and Lyon County has agreed to allocate an amount not to exceed $1.8 million to the project. The county portion of state aid will be limited to the road surface and some storm drainage, per state aid regulations. The county had already approved the agreement.

• The council approved budget amendments that include the refinancing of 2022A bonds, refining the Community Development Block Grant fund budget for 2022 and a budget increase to help offset increasing fuel and utilities costs.