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All you need to know about the Independent Bottle Shops of Chicago


If you are a private label looking to sell at an independent bottle shop, get the attention of a buyer, or test your brand for the market - this is for you!

An independent bottle shop in the USA is a retail store that specializes in selling a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, typically including beer, wine, and spirits. These shops are often independently owned and operated, meaning they are not part of a larger chain or franchise.

What sets independent bottle shops apart from other retail establishments that sell alcohol is their focus on quality and selection. Independent bottle shops specialize in craft beer, exclusive wine, and artisanal spirits, from national as well as international brands. These products are often associated with words like high-quality, small-batch, and even limited edition at times.

Independent bottle shops often pride themselves on their knowledge and expertise, and many have staff members who are passionate about their products and can offer recommendations and advice to customers.

As of 2022, the US beer, wine, and liquor store industry include about 34,000 establishments (single-location companies and units of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $50 billion.

This means there are thousands of thousands of brands trying to get their foot in the market. In 2022, Nancy Sabatini, Wine Director at Mainstreet Wines and Spirits spoke at the USA Trade Tasting about how to work with independent bottle shops. 

Nancy Sabatini 

As a fine wine buyer involved with over 2,500 bottles, Nancy attends trade tastings around the world, including Vinitaly, Portugal, France, Sicily and Germany, Oregon Pinot Camp Alumni, which expands her knowledge of buying wines. She recently was awarded an enrichment trip from the Guild Somm Foundation to attend the Napa Valley Vintners Auction to perform as a volunteer Sommelier. Below are the minutes of her talk - 

Nancy Sabatini

Wine Buying Musts 

1) Build relationships, create an open dialogue

2) Respect my time as much as yours

3) Make appointments and show up on time

4) Be organized and prepared

5) Additional things to add value to the stores brand (ex tastings, exclusive events, etc)

6) How will both of our needs be fulfilled?

7) Stories sell the wine

8) Price/Value ratio

9) “I’m not buying toilet paper”


Pickle Marketing

She also talks about Give the Pickle Marketing, wherein she explains the story behind why her store was often called the “pretzel store” by children.

They would give a pretzel stick to the children so they stay quiet and disciplined while mom and dad shop for liquor 

“People want to care about spending money”, she says. 

Another line worth quoting has to be - “with wine, stories sell.”

In her own words, she is an unusual buyer because she is honest and will tell you - either it’ll work right off on set, or it won’t.”

Wondering how to get in touch with individual buyers like herself? Here are some tips discussed at USATT 2022 conference. 

What buyers need to do 

a) Spend time with the producer

b) See where these wines come from

c) Getting email. Digital is the way to go. Attach a portfolio, if you will! 

d) Some buyers actually prefer working with smaller distributors because there is more to give back.

Independent Bottle Shops of Chicago

Chicago is home to many independent bottle shops that offer a wide variety of beer, wine, and spirits. Here are a few examples:

1) The Beer Temple: The Beer Temple is a popular bottle shop in Chicago that specializes in craft beer. They offer a wide variety of beer from local breweries as well as international imports. They also have a tasting room where customers can sample their offerings.

2) Bottles and Cans: Bottles and Cans is a Logan Square bottle shop that focuses on craft beer and natural wines. They offer a carefully curated selection of beers and wines from around the world and also have a selection of spirits.

3) Foremost Liquors: Foremost Liquors is a family-owned and operated chain of bottle shops that has several locations throughout Chicago. They offer a wide variety of beer, wine, and spirits, and have knowledgeable staff who can help customers find the right product for their needs.

Meet Nancy Sabitini, and the stellar panel of speakers at the USATT 2023 Conference in Chicago on October 17-18, 2023.  

stellar panel of speakers

Top USA and Chicago professionals and buyers will be helping you improve your import, distribution, retail, and restaurant business. Q&A will follow right after, where you will be able to ask questions. 

Written by Stuti Khetan, Beverage Trade Network