MADISON, Miss. – Madison Cellars Fine Wines and Spirits is celebrating its 30th anniversary on April 17th from 2 to 3 p.m. Stop by to help proprietor Pete Clark and his staff commemorate 30 years of success and service to the Madison community.
Pete worked as a geological aide and driller for the Mississippi Geological Survey for seven years before he made the decision to open a business alongside his brother Jim in 1988.
“At that time, there was not much retail in the City of Madison, but we saw the potential for growth,” Pete said. “Madison Station Shopping Center with Jitney Jungle had just opened in 1987, and there were a few retail spaces available. After doing some research, we decided a wine shop next to the grocery store would be a good fit for us, as well as the Madison community.”
The store began as a 400 square-foot shop with just two wine racks and some liquor. With no other shelving, Pete often had to use empty boxes from other area wine stores to stack product for display.
“I didn’t know much about wine and liquor in the beginning,” Pete said. “I was more of a beer drinker. I began doing research and taking courses to become a sommelier. Luckily the business grew at such a pace that I was able to take the time to really learn more about and appreciate wines.”
Today, the store has expanded to over 4,000 square feet and offers a large selection of fine and unusual wines and liquor. For three years in a row, the store has been named to the Best liquor store in Mississippi by the Clarion Ledger readers.
Over the years, Madison Cellars has managed to remain one of the top retailers in the state. Currently, it ranks 12th overall out of 600 package stores and 8th in wine sales. The store is constantly growing and evolving with new people and products showing up every day it seems. Pete said the best part of his job is the relationships he has created with the Madison community as well as his employees.
“My employees are considered part of my family, and they genuinely care about the business and developing relationships with our customers,” he said. “With our regular customers, we are often able to anticipate their needs because of the personal relationships they have built with them. I aim to build loyalty with both my customers and my employees.”
Pete said that while big box stores who carry similar products have started to crop up in the area, his customers realize the value of shopping local. “The advantage of shopping at a locally-owned business is that we are able to care for each customer’s needs and are knowledgeable about the products we are selling,” he said. “A smaller retailer is far more focused on the individual customer and providing quality products and service. At Madison Cellars, we appreciate each customer and want to make them happy about where they have decided to shop. “
Pete said there are also some misconceptions about pricing at traditional shops compared to the stack to the high roof stores.
“I have shopped around and found prices do indeed vary depending on the individual item," hge said. “I know a few items will be slightly higher or lower depending on where it’s bought, but to drive all over to find a cheaper price is self-defeating. Locally-owned businesses will usually make efforts to bring the price in line if it is way off, and that’s not something you’re likely to discover at warehouse stores.”
Pete strongly believes in giving back to the community he serves. Whether it is raising money for Alzheimer’s of Mississippi by the auctioning of the very rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, to mentoring young people at church, work, and in the community, Pete always looks to support and lift others.
“Madison Cellars donates to just about every local charity, fundraiser, community golf tournament, school, and church function that requests donations,” Pete said. “The people who work here live in Madison and send their children to the public and private schools in the area. It makes a difference in where you live if you know where your money is going after it hits the register. Small shops do not get big tax breaks or incentives to open or send their deposits to billion dollar corporations. It all stays local, and I like that. ”
One unique way Pete uses his business to give back is by donating scotch to the Gravediggers Guild at Chapel of the Cross. This group digs all of the graves by hand of those who are to be buried at the Chapel. There is an old Celtic tradition of consecrating the ground with spirits as the grave is being dug. At the finish, the remaining scotch is poured into the ground and prayers are offered up.
“I have learned over the years that Pete uses his work as a ministry alongside it being his livelihood,” said Corey McKnight, a long-time employee of Madison Cellars. “Through celebrations, times of relaxation, and even grieving, he uses his work to add a human touch for others during both the significant and mundane moments of life.”
By serving the community and working hard over the last 30 years, Pete Clark has created a thriving business with Madison Cellars and hopes to continue serving the people of Madison for many years to come.
Madison Cellars is located at 1038 Highway 51. You can visit Pete and his two dogs Sugar and Lou on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For moreinformation, call 601-856-0931.