As one of the largest liquor store chains in the greater Miami market, Mega Wine & Spirits has been trying to keep pace with the area’s growth. In the last six years, Mega has added nine stores, and is planning even more locations. It currently operates 14 units in South Florida—including one in Hialeah opened last year—with its reach extending from Coral Springs in Broward County down to Homestead, just north of the Florida Keys.
Mega was founded as Mega Discount Liquors in 2001. In 2014, the chain—then at five units—was purchased by Javier Macedo. Since then, Macedo—who is also the owner of Florida’s Crown Wine & Spirits chain—and his team have expanded the business substantially. Mega’s name has been changed in recent years to reflect its increased emphasis on wine.
“Our customer base is mostly Latin and most of our stores are located in Latin neighborhoods,” says Manuel “Manny” Garcia, who’s been with Mega since its inception and today serves as general manager. In addition to the Coral Springs location, a few of the stores are in more suburban neighborhoods like Weston and Pinecrest, where the clientele is a bit more diversified. The stores have been added through acquisitions of existing liquor stores and new licenses.
Mega’s stores range in size from 1,000-4,000 square feet, but tend to average around 3,000 square feet. The Doral location—at 4,000 square feet—has emerged as the chain’s flagship due mainly to its size and a recent 2,000-square-foot expansion that included adding a wine and spirits lounge, which at press time was slated to debut this month. A few of the units are located in shopping malls anchored by the likes of Publix and Sedano’s grocery stores, providing shoppers with a convenient option for spirits purchases. The stores generally have similar layouts, with wine and spirits in the front and beer and beverage coolers in the rear. Mega Wine & Spirits employs 90 workers across all locations.
Spirits comprise a whopping 65% of Mega’s sales, with wine at 15%, and beer and miscellaneous items each accounting for 10%. The stores offer about 2,500 spirits SKUs, priced from $7 a 750-ml. bottle of Ron Valzola rum to $14,000 for Old Rip Van Winkle 25-year-old Bourbon. According to Garcia, “brown spirits, driven by Bourbon, and Tequila are hot.” Top-selling Bourbons at Mega include Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack (both $30 a 750-ml.). Among Tequilas, Don Julio Blanco ($43) is a top performer. In white spirits, Tito’s ($32 a 1.75-liter) is the hottest item. Overall, Buchanan’s 12-year-old blended Scotch ($30 a 750 ml.) is the top-selling spirits brand.
Private-barrel spirits have been well received, Garcia notes, and have included Bourbons, Tequilas, and rums. Among the labels Mega has partnered with on single barrels are Jack Daniel’s Single-Barrel Select Tennessee whiskey; Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, and 1792 Bourbons; and Herradura Tequila. Overall, the chain is known for its prices and variety of spirits, Garcia says. “We’re constantly bringing in new items and keeping up with the innovation—we try to be first in market with new products,” he adds, pointing to the likes of the recently released Flor de Caña 30-year-old rum ($1,300 a 750-ml.), of which Mega was an early merchant.
Mega stocks about 1,500 wine SKUs, priced between $7 a 750 ml. of 2017 Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon to $1,000 for the 2005 Château d’Yquem. According to Garcia, wines priced between $10 and $20 are most popular. The biggest trends for wine at the stores are red blends and California Cabernet Sauvignons, and as such, top-selling labels include the 2017 Q7 Reserva Chile red blend, priced at $15 a bottle (or on special at two bottles for $25) and the 2017 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon ($22). Canned wines are also growing, with labels like Rosé All Day ($11 a 4-pack of 250 ml. cans) showing strength. “Whites and rosés in cans are outperforming reds,” Garcia notes. “South Florida is a good market for canned wines, with our beaches and boating.”
But Mega is mostly known for its selection of California and South American wines, due to its Latin customer base. Q7—Mega’s private-label wine for the past three years—is largely sourced from Chile and Argentina, as well as France and Italy. “Response has been good,” Garcia says, noting that in addition to the red blend, the line includes a Prosecco and Pinot Grigio. Demonstrating the chain’s commitment to growing its wine sales, three of the stores feature temperature-controlled fine wine rooms, while the planned lounge at the Doral location will allow Mega, via a special permit, to serve wine and spirits on-premise. Jose Navarro serves as the chain’s sommelier and oversees monthly staff training sessions.
Mega offers about 500 beer SKUs, generally starting at $8 a 6-pack of Bud Light Platinum. Top-selling brews at the chain include Corona Extra ($16 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans or bottles) and Stella Artois ($16 a 12-pack). “Among domestic beers, the only category growing is craft,” Garcia says. Top-selling crafts include Florida’s own Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing ($12 a 6-pack) and Hop Gun IPA ($11) from Funky Buddha Brewery. Hard seltzer, of course, is also a big growth area, driven by White Claw and Truly, both at $10 a 6-pack. Miscellaneous items, meanwhile, include charcuterie, cheeses, crackers, sweets, and gift baskets.
Beyond Brick And Mortar
With a major presence in the South Florida market, Mega Wine & Spirits is gearing up for expansion beyond brick and mortar. Already, the chain has partnered with Drizly, Thirstie and Uber Eats for on-demand delivery, while three of its stores (Doral, Pinecrest, and Weston) offer direct delivery to customers’ homes. At press time, Mega was preparing to launch its online business, a channel where Garcia sees great potential.
The company takes a varied approach to marketing its stores, utilizing both traditional and contemporary platforms. For example, Mega runs both television and radio commercials during the holidays, along with occasional in-home mailers. Monthly emails, meanwhile, are sent to thousands of customers, and social media keeps patrons informed of new product arrivals, specials, and upcoming events. A customer loyalty program is in the works, Garcia says.
In-store tastings and other events are offered every week at select stores. “They’re usually organized around a theme, such as Spanish wines, California wines, or whisk(e)y,” Garcia explains. Some of the tastings incorporate food pairings, such as a recent taco truck and Tequila tasting at the Homestead location. In addition, two major tastings are hosted each year under an 80-by-40-foot tent in the Doral store parking, although those events weren’t held this year due to the Covid-19 crisis. “We usually have 30-40 suppliers pouring wine and spirits, along with food tastings,” says Garcia, noting that events will resume once it’s safe to do so. Off-site, the chain has also hosted wine dinners at local restaurants and private events. And Mega looks to support community groups; the chain’s recent “Autism Awareness Day,” for example, contributed a percentage of purchases of select products to autism-focused charities in Venezuela.
Like other Florida liquor store operators, Garcia expresses concern that changes to the state’s laws that would allow grocery stores to sell spirits could affect his business. “We’d be impacted by the convenience factor and would likely face increased competition for sales of major brands, like Tito’s,” he says. Still, grocery stores wouldn’t be able to compete with Mega’s “more personalized service,” nor the immense variety his stores offer, Garcia argues.
While Mega Wine & Spirits has certainly made its mark on the metro Miami wine and spirits scene in a relatively short period of time, the chain isn’t finished building its network of stores. At least one new store is planned for 2021, although Garcia declines to reveal the location. Beyond that, he adds, “We’d like to expand north. But for now, our focus is on the South Florida market.”