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Park Rapids liquor store a cash cow

The Park Rapids muni offers 629 varieties of beer, 1,574 wine selections and 1,518 different spirits. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Park Rapids relies on its municipal liquor store to help purchase items and keep taxes lower for residents.

Since 1996, when Rapids Spirits opened on Highway 34, transfers of $3,645,567 have been made for city purchases. The airport has received $1,077,282 of that money.

"The operation supports itself, from the equipment to the building," said Rapids Spirits manager Scott Olson.

It's important for taxpayers to know that it is self-sustaining and no tax dollars are used for the operation, he said. Nothing is owed on the building.

He also makes sure the liquor store has a measure of control on alcohol.

"That's the purpose of having a municipal liquor operation," said City administrator Bill Smith.

Olson has training for all his employees to make sure alcohol stays out of the hands of minors. He also works on non-alcohol post prom events.

"We work very closely with the police department," he said.

Exterior cameras are used at the facility to monitor purchases.

"Just last week we turned someone in who bought for minors waiting in a car outside," Olson said.

Smith credits Olson with running a finely tuned machine.

"He's very knowledgable in this business and has really become a resource in the area for other liquor stores as well," Smith said.

The more than $3.5 million in revenue generated by the liquor store has gone to fund equipment purchases, such as trucks and plows. It has also helped with projects such as the Downtown Revitalization Plan and Kaywood Trail. The playground equipment at Depot Park, along with paving and sidewalks, were funded with liquor store reserves as well.

"We'd like more floor space, of course, but we're working on other projects first," Smith said. "We've got a number of water/sewer projects, the Fire Department needs more space, the library needs more space. It's in the queue."

One of the objects the liquor store has had is to have a variety and selection of products.

"I think it's the variety of people we get here as a tourist destination, we carry a wide variety of products," Olson said.

The store carries 629 different beers, 1,574 different wines, 246 products for mixing drinks and 1,518 different spirits.

"That's almost 4,000 line items and we're always trying new products as they become available," he said.

The emphasis is on being competitive and making money for the city.

Rapids Spirits has 10 employees in the busy summer months and nine employees during the off-season. Four positions are full time.

Olson refers back to the two main objectives he has for the liquor store: Making money and keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors.

"What they do is provide revenues to the city to take care of parks, keep the airport running and keep things nice for the citizens," Smith said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561