When Interstate Liquors owner Tammy Harrington’s grandparents opened the store in 1967 there wasn’t the iconic walking horse out front. In fact, the store, then Big John’s Liquors, opened near what is now Sonic. The Interstate wasn’t even a thing back then.
A lot has changed since then, but customer service has remained the key ingredient in the store’s success — that and offering some of the best spirits around.
The whiskey horse - a local landmark
It’s a Manchester landmark, Whiskey, an animatronic Tennessee Walking Horse (one of only three) was commissioned by George Dickel Distillery and given to the store in 1972.
“The horse is on the geocache site… it’s a Pokémon site,” Tammy said. “And of course it’s a meeting site for loads of folks traveling. People traveling will say ‘get off of the Interstate and come to the horse.’ ”
Back in the day, Tammy’s grandfather supplied the distillery with the coal it used at the time to run the plant. That made for a connection with the distiller still apparent today.
The store relocated in 1972 to the far end of town where it is now.
“I remember as a small child, there were two gas pumps across the street, and a whole bunch of red dirt. And nothing else,” Tammy said, explaining that Manchester’s fast food strip was all people’s houses.
“I grew up in a house where Captain D’s is now,” she said. “It was an easy commute for my mother. She ran the store for 47 years.”
In 2016, Tammy and her husband, Richard, bought the store.
“It wasn’t just a business. It was a legacy of what my granddad started, my mother continued and we are continuing in serving the community — being here to help patrons. ”
Treating you like family – quality advice, unique services
Mixology is now a thing. Customers used to ask for one thing to mix with their liquor, now people come in with a shopping list of things to make one drink.
“That’s a whole new concept from 40-50 years ago. It’s fun. We learn from our customers what the latest drinks are. We try to stay knowledgeable on all that, so we can help our customers,” Tammy said.
If your brand, or something you want to try, is not in stock, just ask, and Tammy and the staff can order it for you.
“We have huge customer request book. That’s one way that we’ve expanded our selection,” she said.
The shop has a complete offering of Tennessee craft beers, Southeaster wines and specially packaged Tennessee baskets.
Manchester’s Finest Liquor Store for three years in a row.
“We are humbled by that. I believe that’s made possible by the incredible team of staff members,” Tammy said.
“When we great someone who comes in, we want them to be comfortable. We want them to interact with us. We want to be helpful. That’s what sets us apart, I think,” she said.
Social media is a new way to connect with customers.
New store arrival, the items for this week’s tastings, specials and upcoming events are all posted to Facebook.
Merry Mimosa and Muffins – a holiday tradition
This the third year Interstate Liquors will hold the Merry Mimosas and Muffins event. This year’s event will be Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
“We will have mimosa, all kinds of holiday treats, cookies (made with some of the product) hot cocoa so you can try that with the creams and peppermint vodka,” Tammy said.
Representatives from Jackson Morgan Southern Creams will offer tastings and recipes, along with George Dickel with tastings and signings for their single barrel bottles.
There will be drawings for gift boxes for tequila lover or rum lover. There will be hourly specials plus a grand prize drawing at the end of the even (you don’t have to be present to win the grand prize). Last year’s prize was loaded 23-inch Tennessee basket with promotional T-shirts, ice bucket and other cool stuff.
“This is our chance to give back to all of our regular patrons and a chance to welcome new people and show them our hospitality,” Tammy said.
New this year, Interstate Liquors will release its hard-to-find liquors on the day of the event on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Additionally, Interstate Liquors offers numbered bottles of hand selected, Exclusive George Dickel Barrel Select Whisky (Dickel’s spelling used here). This is George Dickel’s very finest whiskey, for the truly discerning whisky drinker. Only 10 barrels are hand-selected by their distiller for this small-batch handcrafted whiskey, aged between 10 and 12 years.
“We thought we’d do one barrel a year. It’s grown to two because the demand is so high,” Tammy said.
“It’s an amazing deal. A local 11 year old whiskey single barrel that’s less than $40, you can’t beat that,” she said.
Customers can request a specific numbered bottle to correspond to birthday, anniversary or any special number.
“It’s an extra little service we try to do. Everybody has favorite number they might want to commemorate,” she said.
Military Monday to Free Friday Tastings - a week of special events
Military Monday — military members and veterans with valid military ID cards will receive a 10% discount each Monday. There is no limitation on the discount, and it can be applied to any in-store purchase.
“It’s a small way of saying thank you,” Tammy said.
Then on Fridays there are free tastings from 4-6 p.m.
“We try to get a representative from different products to come. They can offer little tidbits that we might not be able to research and find out,” Tammy said.
There is always special pricing on those products. Sometimes there’s swag from distributors.
Gifts, Gifts, Gifts – making your merry bright
Find a wide selection of gift ideas available that range from custom loaded Tennessee shaped baskets to bar tools, even a beer pong game.
Customize your basket with a specific bottle or shot pre wrapped baskets of various sizes and prices for a quick gift on the go.
Gift certificates are available in $10 and $25 denominations.
“We offer a Stock the Bar registry. This service is ideal for housewarmings, weddings, birthdays, etc. Patrons can make their choices for their friends and family to choose from for their special event,” Tammy said.
Tammy shared that the store is starting Corks for Christmas this year. For each used cork you bring in, Interstate will donate to the Dusty Elam Foundation.
“We wanted to start a campaign to help the community,” she said.
“The foundation helps so many people across the county,” Tammy said.
“We try to know what people like. If someone maybe is new to wine, we can say, ‘maybe you should try this one. When you come back, tell me how you liked it. Do you want to go sweeter or drier? ’ ”