“We’ve been in business together longer than most people have even been married,” Lori Wick said.
What might be the longest self-owned and managed business in Shorewood, Wick’s Liquors serves up a wide selection of beer and other spirits, featuring both cases of big brands, and six-packs of many varieties of local Wisconsin brews.
"We sell a lot of Spotted Cow," Tim Wick said. "Did you know their president went to Lake Bluff?"
Tim says some people come out of their way to pick up local beer like New Glarus.
“People really do come here on their way through town if they’re from Illinois or other places," he said. "You can’t get New Glarus in other states, for example, so people come here for it because they know we’ve got the variety.”
The magic all started when Tim attended a dance as a sophomore in the Youth Center at Shorewood High School and met Lori, then an eighth-grader.
Tim and Lori married in 1979, four years after Tim and two years after Lori graduated from Shorewood High School. The couple has been together ever since, and have raised two children in Shorewood while operating the store.
They had already earned an exciting reputation in high school for sharing their affections for one another.
“I remember chemistry teacher Doc Genskow busting us for making out in the hallway, and sending us to the office," Tim said. "That was kind of funny, because I already worked in the school office answering phones from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day for $1.30 an hr anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.”
When Kensington Liquors went up for sale in 1983, both Tim and Lori quit their jobs and went all in. For 29 years they have sold beer, wine and liquor, greeted regulars by name, shared lots of stories, and personally assisted anyone who walked in the door.
“We offer a lot more customer service than the bigger places,” Lori said. “We sort of grew up here, learning about life and business through our store and the people of Shorewood.”
Since 1983, the couple has decided to stay when others have left.
“It was hard to stay when Sam Trisceri sold the Village Pub,” Tim said. “He was SHS Class of ’74 like me. There were a lot of us in that class in beer sales."
What changes in the market have they seen?
"We still sell mostly beer, but compared to the 80s' and 90s', people spend less on alcohol than they used to,” he said.
And, what's the biggest seller at Wick’s Liquor?
“Miller Light, that never seems to change,” he said.
Prior to buying the store, Tim and Lori have little prior sales experience, as hard workers with specialized skills and the ability even at a young age to attract and retain a loyal customer base, they have been successful for decades.
Tim was a licensed General Motors mechanic and Lori a hairdresser at the House of Fashion. When I interviewed Tim at his home, he had his head under the hood of his Chevy Camaro and was replacing the master brake cylinder, aided by his daughter, Kristin (SHS ’07). When he said, “Get me the fifteen millimeter flex [socket wrench],” she immediately retrieved it for him.
Talking to them both at the store, Lori offered solid advice for anyone looking to run his or her own business.
“Get a good accountant,” she said, and her eyes met mine earnestly. “We did, and we were so lucky. He guided us towards our goals, and got us where we needed to be. You have to have that."
After 29 years of selling mostly beer, what are their favorites? Tim’s is Pabst Blue Ribbon. Lori’s is Bud Light, to which Tim muttered, “St. Louis traitor” under his breath.
“Easy,” said Tim after asked about his favorite watering hole. “American Legion Shorewood Post. Best fish fry around.”