As she reaches her one-year anniversary in downtown Springfield this month, 417 Cocktails owner Mandi Fritz says her move to a brick-and-mortar shop of her own has positively moved the revenue needle.
After a year subleasing space and selling kits for cocktails and mocktails inside 417 Charcuterie LLC in Brentwood Center South, Fritz relocated and expanded her business, which she started in her home in early 2021.
“There were certain things I wasn’t expecting. It’s a lot like having a baby. You don’t know until it happens,” she says of her first year downtown. “It’s a lot of little things, like trying to realize trends. That’s hard to do downtown because sometimes there will be an event downtown and it will make my shop super busy. Or sometimes there will be an event downtown and it will make my shop dead.”
With the shop splitting time between the south side and downtown last year in its own brick-and-mortar store, 417 Cocktails’ annual revenue was $79,000. Fritz projects sales nearly doubling this year to $150,000. Part of that growth is tied to an increase in online purchases via the company website, which comprise around 30% of sales this year.
“When I was at 417 Charcuterie, it was probably less than 10%,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s just the legitimacy of having a brick and mortar that is making me more seen or because I have a brick and mortar and I’m here all the time and taking more pictures and focusing on social media. There’s a little bit of both of those happening.”
Nearly 50% of revenue comes from sales of drink kits, which include bitters, syrups, garnishes and recipes, Fritz says. Prices generally range $23-$29, according to its website. The kits essentially come with all a customer will need to craft a cocktail, save for the alcohol, she adds.
Aside from the kits, the shop carries cocktail accessories, such as honey from Battlefield-based Route 66 Honey LLC and ice molds produced by Springfield-based Tuxedo Ice LLC. The shelves also are filled with products including swizzle sticks, cocktail shakers and nonalcoholic spirits.
“I tried super hard that if I can’t find local, then they are small businesses. And that if they use produce, they are getting produce locally,” she says, adding around 80% of the products in the store come from female-owned ventures. “I thought I’d be lucky to find 50%, but it’s really been easier and more widespread than what I thought.”
Place of purpose
While selling her handcrafted drink kits at 417 Charcuterie, Fritz says customers often asked about places they could find bitters, syrups and similar products. That motivated her to launch a one-stop shop for drink accessories.
“There’s places you can go and see a few flavors of bitters but nowhere you can go to find 30 flavors,” she says. “I felt it was great to have everything all together.”
The time at 417 Charcuterie provided Fritz a chance to test the waters of selling products in a store before taking the solo plunge.
“It was great because I could save up the money I was making there. So, when I found the spot I wanted, I wasn’t going to have to take out a loan or things like that,” she says, adding downtown always was her target. She signed a two-year lease for an undisclosed rate with Union Biscuit Warehouse LLC.
Before opening the shop, Fritz connected with the Downtown Springfield Association, which promotes downtown businesses and events. Hailey Magnus, DSA communications manager, calls Fritz “a go-getter.”
“Mandi’s been great. We’ve gotten a lot of connections with her. She was one of the participants in the Women’s Day Downtown event,” she says, noting the first-time promotion celebrated the more than 50 women-owned and led downtown businesses.
417 Cocktails is among 200 DSA business members, Magnus says, adding Fritz pays an annual $195 civic membership rate. The membership includes discounts to be a vendor at DSA events and reduced web and newsletter advertising fees.
Magnus says Fritz has participated at DSA events such as the annual Taste of SoMo.
Fritz is familiar with business ownership, having run home-based Sweets and Eats LLC before 417 Cocktails.
“It had been about 10 years, and my body was done, and my brain was done,” she says of ending the dessert-focused venture. “It just wasn’t enjoyable anymore. It’s hard to do something creative if the joy is gone.”
While Fritz originally planned to pursue a liquor license, she decided it would be better to leave that to other businesses.
Still, that hasn’t prevented her from hosting mixology classes both in her shop and in the community. The classes, which generally range $30-$50 per person, include options for alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Fritz recently held a mojito making event at Carson’s Greenhouse and Gifts and has previously taught classes at Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium and Hold Fast Brewing. She estimates holding close to 100 classes in the past year, with many in the last few months.
“They’re very popular right now. There are two to three a week, every week,” she says of September classes. “October is getting ready to fill up. They are going nuts and I’m shocked. Before that, my goal was to always have three events a month.”
It’s a newer revenue stream for the business – roughly 20% and rising, she says.
“When I have the classes here, people get a discount for shopping. So, after the class, they’re shopping too,” she says. “Not that that’s the point of doing the class but that’s a nice bump I wasn’t expecting.”
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