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C-gas all-stars: The beer niche

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When she was working in quality control as a microbiologist, Sylvie Martel couldn’t have imagined that a decade later she would become passionate about the world of microbreweries.

Martel left this field behind when she decided to help her husband, Jean Desroches, operate his Dépanneur La Ressource family business in Boucherville, QC. Today, mid-way between second and third generation management, the store celebrates its 40th birthday.

“The store was built in the middle of a field. Today, it’s bigger and the inventory has changed from pacifiers and diapers to microbeers,” says Martel.

Around 2002, the retail industry had changed so much that it became vital to challenge the mission of La Ressource.

“It was time to step out of the routine and focus on a specialty that would set us apart from the competition,” says Martel. It meant a large investment because the microbreweries required minimums to open accounts.

“Our reputation is established now. We were able to ride the wave of effervescence about microbrewery beers at the right time,” says Martel.

The thrill of a new beer

Martel loves to discover a new beer. “New products are exciting. Wow, a new beer! But I also value the relationships that are created between these innovators who brew beer. We are real innovators in Québec; I love people who work in this field. There’s a lot of cooperation,” she says.

“We serve clients and our employees guide the customers well,” she adds. “We’re part of this industry and we play a role in the prosperity of this community. I contribute, and that’s what motivates me. I love innovating and contributing to new concepts.”

Tastings and education

When Desroches isn’t placing orders, paying invoices or checking the inventory, he’s happy to learn more about beer making. “So much goes into producing special beers. There are now gluten-free beers and beers that reveal a caramel or chocolate taste with certain cheeses,” says Desroches.

While his father used to carry larger quantities of a few beers, Desroches needs to adapt quickly to the demanding inventory management and merchandising of smaller numbers of numerous different beers.

Since microbrewers obtain different results with each batch, quantities can be very limited and sell quickly. Thus, the Facebook page has become the perfect tool to constantly update clients with attractive pictures of new or seasonal beers.

While the owners love to learn about microbeers, they love sharing their passion more than anything else.

“Sharing our pride in being entrepreneurs and enjoying work is good,” says Martel. “We get attached to our customers. They are so happy to see us, and tell us they like to see our smiles. For some who live close, coming here is their only time to get out and see people. We realize the advantages of doing this.”

4 ways you can keep your store fresh and exciting:

1. Find your niche. Look for a particular product or service that will set your site apart. But remember, you have to feel comfortable with your choice to reach your goal.

2. Learn the ropes. Gathering information about your specialty is critical, so try the products yourself so you can guide your customers.

3. Take to the internet. Share attractive pictures and product suggestions on Facebook or Twitter so your customers know what you have on offer.

4. Keep it exciting. Try different things when it comes to promotions, and switch them up often so your deals and displays don’t get stale.