Pouring It On

Cash Saver growler shop taps local beer market

By Amos Maki

The Cash Saver store on Madison Avenue in Midtown had begun to show its age, its weather-beaten exterior presenting a less-than-inviting entrance and its dated and worn interior lacking the displays and amenities found in most modern grocery stores.

One of the highlights of the relaunched Cash Saver is a new beer growler fill station.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But that changed dramatically after a much-needed makeover and the store was re-launched Jan. 31. The $1.7 million facelift included a new storefront, roof, refrigerated cases and displays, lights, shelves, heating and air systems, and a wildly popular growler station.

“This is an old store and it hadn’t been through a major remodel since 1996, and as a company, we were doing better and realized this was our best store and we wanted to make it the best it could be,” said store manager Taylor James. “It is absolutely wonderful. We called it our grand reopening.”

Taylor James’ dad, Rick James, bought four Memphis grocery stores in 2004 and converted them to Cash Saver stores, including the former Piggly Wiggly at 1620 Madison Ave. The father and son had wanted to renovate the dog-eared store since they acquired it, but the former property owner told them he didn’t plan on renewing their lease, so the transformation plans were put on hold. However, AWG acquired the property in 2013, signed the Jameses to a 20-year lease with several extension options and partnered with them on the upgrades.

“That was a huge release,” said James, 22. “It was one of those ‘this is it’ moments, and it guaranteed this location will stay locally owned and operated for at least the next 20 years.”

The Madison Avenue Cash Saver has quickly established itself as one of the premier places in the city to buy beer.

The store offers around 350 craft or imported beers and includes the growler shop, which allows people to fill reusable glass bottles with beer. Of the 30 beers on tap, 28 are American-made craft beers, and nearly half of those are local or regional.

“I view it as the crown jewel of the remodel,” James said of the growler shop. “People walk into a grocery store and they see a bar and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, what?’”

James said the growler shop has evolved into a community gathering spot of sorts, bringing together customers from all walks of life and backgrounds.

“Like Midtown, our shoppers are very diverse, and the growler shop can bring all of those people together in a way,” said James.

The Cash Saver growler shop joined a growing list of local growler options – including Boscos Restaurant and Brewing Co., Ghost River Brewing on South Main, The Growler in Cooper-Young and Wiseacre Brewery’s tap room on Broad Avenue – but James said his growler store can tap a much broader audience.

“The advantage we have is that we have 25,000 to 30,000 people who walk through our store every week who might buy a growler,” James said. “They’re shopping and they’ll walk by and ask what is going on and they might pick up a craft beer.”

The Madison Avenue Cash Saver, managed by Taylor James, recently saw a $1.7 million facelift that included a new storefront, roof, displays and more. The store was relaunched Jan. 31.

The focus on offering a large beer selection and a growler store was a strategic one, James said.

“We do that to make us a destination,” he said. “The goal is for the beer to bring people through the door, and while they’re here, they become a loyal shopper here at the store.”

The store has also built a reputation for offering rock-bottom prices on beer and food. The store operates a “cost plus 10” pricing format on food, meaning the Jameses figure out what it costs to get an item on the shelves and add 10 percent at checkout.

“Where most traditional stores are high gross profit, low volume, we’re high volume and low gross profit,” said James. “I tell people to come here and shop just once. I guarantee it will be cheaper than anywhere else and you’ll find whatever you need.”

For beer, the Jameses take 3 percent off their invoice costs before adding 10 percent at the register.

“We move through quite a bit of beer,” said James.

The store has built quite a following on Twitter. James’ account, @taylorhjames, has around 850 followers. The store’s account, @cash_saver, has more than 600 followers, and the growler shop’s account, @madisongrowler, has more than 800.

“They’re getting people here every day,” said James. “It reminds people about us. They can’t forget about us because we’re always there.”