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Liquor King opens; plans to be southeastern Kentucky 'megastore'

Liquor King owner Bill Smith, above, said his 10,000 square foot store, located on Cumberland Falls Hwy. in Corbin, will have the largest selection of alcoholic beverages between Knoxville and Lexington.

The largest of Corbin's three liquor stores is set to be in full operation today, and owner Bill Smith hopes that it will become an "anchor store" for all of southeastern Kentucky.

Liquor King, located on Cumberland Falls Hwy. in the old Marine Myers auto dealership building, represents an investment of over $2 million for Smith and his business partner, and fiancé, Wanda Simons, a local CPA. The duo received one of three licenses to operate a package liquor store from the Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control in a hotly contested process where 12 applicants applied for the lucrative licenses.

"We decided that if we got one of the licenses we would do the most with it we could possible do," said Smith, a retired pharmacist who formerly owned Sav-Rite Pharmacy on Master Street.

"When this came up, I thought it represented one of the great opportunities there is left in Corbin. I thought if I could be lucky enough to get one of those licenses, it would be great. If not, it was something I could turn my head on the next day and go on. I wasn't going to sweat it."

Smith has had little downtime since being awarded a license in mid July. Work began the next day and has continued at a fevered pitch ever since to transform the abandoned vehicle showroom and service center into a modern, spacious liquor store.

"I'm really proud of what has happened here," Smith said. "We've taken a location that was kind of an eyesore and made a great location out of it. I think it is something people in this area are really going to appreciate."

At 10,000 square feet, Liquor King is more than double the size of any of the current or planned liquor stores in Corbin. Smith promises it will have the largest selection and inventory of any store between Knoxville and Lexington.

The store will have two drive-thru windows, 100 parking spaces and plenty of room for expansion. Smith said he wanted a location that would be convenient for consumers as far as parking and ease of access.

"I always envisioned this site as a great place for a liquor store," Smith said. "We had a lady come in the other day to buy some wine. She turned the corner after walking in and she just stood there and said 'wow!' when she looked down the aisles at the selection. That's what we want. We want something that is going to be impressive to the customers."
Inventory in the store will top $1 million alone.

But Liquor King's impact on the community could be much larger than its selection. Smith said he's hired around 35 full and part-time employees to start. Most of those will be working full-time. Part time employees are making $8.00 to $8.50 an hour, with full-time workers being paid up to $15 per hour.

"These are better than average jobs. The good thing about that is, each and every one of those people has a chance to move up," Smith said.

He noted that the store received over 500 employment applications when it was doing its hiring.

"The way I've always done things in the past is that if the store does well, I pass that on to my employees through benefits and everything else," Smith said. "I paid my people at my other business well. I took really good care of them. At this store, it will be the same way."

Smith said he plans for Liquor King not only to compete with its huge selection, but also on price. Even though it is an independently operated store, it is part of a cooperative with three other Kentucky liquor stores, which allows it to have more purchasing power. More purchasing power means lower prices for consumers. In the end, Smith said he wants to be able to sell liquor more cheaply than anyone else in the area.

To that end, he said he's always poised for an opportunity to perhaps open another Liquor King store somewhere, or add on to his existing Corbin location.

"If this area takes to this store and it does start to become a mega center, then I will expand," Smith said.

Liquor King isn't all just about liquor, ironically enough. About 15 percent of the retail space in the store is dedicated to the sale of non-liquor items like specialty sauces, party favors and other foodstuff like cheese. A lot of people, Smith said, have been keenly interested in the cheese.

"That's been the biggest question. People want to know if we are going to sell that. We will have a good selection of cheeses."
Another feature unique to Liquor King is the addition of an Icehouse America location. The large rectangular structure, about the size of a large trailer, is essentially a compact, fully automated ice-producing factory. It also provides purified water.

Smith said became interested in the Icehouse America concept because he felt like it provided great value to customers. It can produce 1,000 large bags of ice per day for a fraction of what customers would pay elsewhere. Also, a gallon of purified water can be bought for 25 cents a gallon, or five gallons for $1. All water used by the machine is purified and dechlorinated. It also goes through a process to kill bacteria.

"I just think this is a concept that goes hand in hand with the store," Smith said.

Liquor King is open now. Its hours are 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.

A formal ribbon cutting and grand opening for the store is tentatively planned for Nov. 15.

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