Looking at Legacy Wine and Spirits’ website, a couple of things stand out. The first is: It’s easy to see why Legacy has adjusted so smoothly to the pandemic rules that allow for liquor store deliveries. Pre-pandemic, the Chenal Parkway liquor stop was already equipped with a robust online presence, including a gift registry, a cigar selection, a host of grocery items like Blue Sail and Onyx coffee beans and a wine database with a “90+ POINTS” tab that lets you filter results for top-rated wines from your choice of ranking system (Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, etc.).
The other thing you might notice, if you happened to wander over to the staff directory, is that owners/operators John Akins and David Bevans keep a sizable number of former/practicing bartenders on their payroll — an asset to anyone whose business depends on knowing what people like to drink.
Akins and Bevans met back when Bevans was managing his father’s dental clinics. Akins’ background is in banking software, Bevans’ in the service industry, and the pair decided to leave the medical field and open up I-30 Liquor in the Mabelvale district near Baseline Road, all the while making plans for a location in West Little Rock. That happened in November 2015. “It’s a fun industry,” Bevans said, “and we were actually looking for something that was somewhat recession-proof. Had no idea we were going to be, you know, an ‘essential business’!”
Delivery, Bevans said, is something he and Akins had wanted to do for years, “but it’s a statutory regulation, so it’s got to go through legislation to actually become law. When the governor announced that we could do curbside and deliveries, it was an immediate game-changer. We had to start the whole business model on the fly.” Their existing web presence, Bevans said, helped tremendously, though the announcement meant they needed to take their online inventory and make it “shoppable.”
“It was just a flip of a switch, basically,” Bevans said. “Johnny had the background in IT with the banking gig that he used to do. He’s our resident computer nerd. So he had us ready to roll.” They started making deliveries the day after Governor Hutchinson’s announcement, and business has been nonstop ever since. “It’s opened us up to new clientele, you know. Not just Chenal and West Little Rock. We run deliveries all over town. We have a 10-mile radius, but that encompasses quite a bit of Little Rock.”
As for Bevans, he’s into American whiskeys and craft beer. His staff roster — many listed with their beverage industry certifications like “Certified Cicerone” and “Master Sommelier” — represents knowledge in a host of other boozy categories. “Each column of our industry, there’s a wealth of knowledge behind gin, or behind beer, or wine. You could spend your whole life dedicated to learning just one aspect of it.”
If there’s a universal theme to the business, though, it’s hospitality. As a bartender and server, Bevans learned “food pairings, and how to read people, and how to treat people.” That goes, evidently, for Bevans and Akins’ employees; turnover is low at Legacy, and some staff members have been with Bevans and Akins since the I-30 Liquor days. ‘It’s a laid-back atmosphere,” Bevans said. “Not a lot of drama. A family vibe. We’ve got a lot of great, very knowledgeable people.”