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New manager at city-owned liquor store

Jim Watland is the new Lakes Liquor manager. “It’s nice having a big store,” he said. “It gives us more opportunities to try new things.” Brian Basham/Record

Though he was perfectly happy at his former job, Jim Watland decided a change might be nice.

On April 1, he started his new job as manager of Lakes Liquor in Detroit Lakes.

“I heard about the opportunity, it piqued my interest and I applied,” he said.

 Born and raised in Detroit Lakes, Watland has worked the last nine years for Altria Group (the parent company of Philip Morris Company) but he’s better known in Detroit Lakes as managing Evans for many years.

He started working for Steve Evans in 1991, and worked there until Evans became Central Market.

“My entire work life had been grocery,” he said.

With Altria, he worked as a territory manager helping stores set up tobacco sites and manage them, putting on lots of miles while traveling throughout his territory. Being able to stay home was one of the appeals of the city municipal liquor store job.

It was during his time at Altria that he realized he missed the customer interaction he had with retail.

“Even being here for a week, it has been amazing who I’ve seen,” he said of Lakes Liquor. “I can’t tell you how welcoming the city has been.”

He’s also gotten to surround himself with excellent workers at his new position, he said.

With very low turnaround, he’s able to focus on other things at the liquor store. Right now, that focus is just getting to know the beer, wine and liquor selection the new store has to offer. The challenge, he said, has been the extensive wine selection. Luckily, he added, two of his employees are well-versed in wines.

“It’s been pretty hectic,” he said of his first few days. “There’s a tremendous amount to learn but there’s such good people around me.”

Besides the changes that come with a new job, Watland is working with a brand new building as well.

“I’ve got things to do, and that’s exciting.”

He plans to do some more things with the store to make it more customer friendly, like signage for one. He said there is an extensive collection of wine, but no labeling on what section is what so it’s difficult for people to know where the merlots are, for example.

He also plans to work with distributors to get more end cap displays and sales. And he plans to host events at the liquor store to promote it.

“It’s nice having a big store. It gives us more opportunities to try new things.”

And those new things can come from anyone.

When he was younger, he admits, he used to think he could do everything himself.

“That’s all gone,” he said with a laugh. “I listen more today than I ever have.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.