Skip to content

Longmont Liquors watches business and Longmont grow over past decade

The local business began on South Main Street at a time when nothing else was around.

The family-owned Longmont Liquors may occupy a small train depot station, but it has a decade-long history on South Main Street.

Longmont Liquors, a local store carrying imported and local beer, wines and spirits, celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 1. Chris and Stephanie McGilvray opened the liquor store at 137 Main St. with a dream to open their own business together.

At the time of Longmont Liquors’ opening, South Main Street wasn’t as built out as it is today. The city completed its study and master plan of First and Main Street Station Transit and Revitalization Plan in 2012, the same year that the liquor store was founded. The McGilvrays decided to get in on the ground floor.

“We're proud of Longmont, we're proud of downtown,” Chris McGilvray said. “And so it was, it was cool to be one of the first to see that potential.” 

Several businesses have opened on South Main Street since, and the area is still developing. As recently as 2019, the mixed-use development South Main Station, occupying the former Butterball Plant, completed phase one of two. The new restaurant Urban Field Pizza and Market and the new location of Copper Sky Distillery are opening this month.

A lot of life has happened during the decade of Longmont Liquors. The McGilvrays had two children who are now in sixth and third grades. Stephanie McGilvray was teaching, and continued working at a charter school in Greeley for four years into the business. 

The couple switched places, with Stephanie McGilvray focusing on Longmont Liquors and Chris McGilvrayaccepting a position at Front Range Community College where he teaches business, marketing, management and entrepreneurship courses.

The early years of running the Longmont business came with challenges and long days. Chris McGilvray would kiss Stephanie McGilvray goodbye in the morning before she woke, and return when she was asleep for the night. He finished his dissertation on the front counter of the liquor store, since there weren’t any staff members besides the two of them.

The flood of 2013 left Longmont in flux as it recovered, and Longmont Liquors temporarily closed its business. While the McGilvrays were excited for the redevelopment of Main Street, construction blocked off traffic from Longmont Liquors' parking lot, reducing sales by 30-40%, Chris McGilvray said.

The McGilvrays overcame those early hurdles with perseverance. Sales were lower and expenses higher than first predicted when starting the business, so Longmont Liquors got creative. When customers weren’t coming to them, they offered to deliver. They looked for small ways to improve their business. But overall, learning what worked over time and keeping at it is how the liquor store found success.

Longmont Liquors is still a tightly-run operation with a couple additions to the staff, but the early-year hustle has settled into a better work-life balance.

“It was really difficult, but we're glad those tough years hopefully are past us,” Stephanie McGilvray said. “We've definitely been able to have more family time, which is awesome and we're really grateful for our staff.”

When it comes to Longmont’s business community, the McGilvrays try to keep their finger on the pulse. Chris McGilvray is the past chair of the board of directors for the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce and and currently serves as board chair for the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.

Longmont Liquors offers numerous Longmont brands including Left Hand Brewing Company, St. Vrain Cidery, Bootstrap Brewing, Spirits and Abbott & Wallace Distilling. They also feature brands from other cities in Colorado.

The depot building is 2,500 square feet, but Longmont Liquors operates in about half of the space and the McGilvrays lease out the back area. But the small store is packed with variety and expanded its inventory since opening 10 years ago. In addition to the local brands of liquor and craft beer and ciders, Longmont Liquor carries imported wines, beer and spirits. 

“We are small, but I feel like the impact is not,” Stephanie McGilvray said. “For the amount of space we have, we really do maximize our space and we really feel we have a good variety for what people are looking for.”

Chris McGilvray added that they customize their selection to their customers. They meet requests, like a customer’s special request for a whiskey barrel last year to give as presents to their staff. 

The McGilvrays used to live in Loveland, but moved to Longmont four years ago to raise their family and be close to their business. In the 10 years of Longmont Liquors, its business has grown alongside the connections the McGilvrays have made. 

“We really built our business around building meaningful connections and relationships with people,” Chris McGilvray said. “It's been really rewarding, kind of seeing families grow and getting to know our customers on a personal level.”


Ali Mai

About the Author: Ali Mai

Ali Mai is freelance writer and photographer, covering business for the Longmont Leader. She writes the weekly column "Longmont Local."
Read more