Liquor store ownership group builds 60-store business of varied brands
Among companies that own the most liquor stores in Indiana, Big Red Liquors Inc. is No. 1 and Indiana Liquor Group LLC is No. 2.
Unlike Big Red, the retail titan that operates 82 stores, Indiana Liquor Group doesn’t have a prominent public profile. Instead, the company buys stores in small cities and towns and typically leaves the business names unchanged.
In January, Indiana Liquor Group bolstered its portfolio with the purchase of six Papa Joe’s Liquors stores in Richmond. It’s a strategy that’s added up to 60 locations, or will hit 60 when three permits are used for future stores in Noblesville, Franklin and Yorktown.
Kyle Hupfer, the Indiana Republican Party chairman who’s a co-owner of Indiana Liquor Group, said it wouldn’t make sense to streamline the 60 stores into a single brand name.
“As we’ve done acquisitions, we have been in suburban and rural communities,” Hupfer said. “We feel like these brands have a lot of community identity and awareness. They’ve been there a long time. Papa Joe’s, as an example in Richmond, has been there a long time. It has a good brand ID and we just feel no need to change it.”
Nathan Feltman, publisher of the IBJ, co-owns Indiana Liquor Group with Hupfer and Gina Hartley. Hupfer said Hartley’s late husband, David Hartley, spearheaded the founding of the company in 2018.
Hartley, who died in March 2021 at age 51, researched business opportunities after he and Feltman sold medical equipment company Home Health Depot in 2017.
“Talking to people in the industry, he saw an aging demographic of ownership,” Hupfer said of Hartley. “He knew that there were going to be people who wanted to leave the business but didn’t really have a succession plan.”
Indiana Liquor Group’s first acquisition was the Save-On Liquor chain of 31 stores in early 2019. With locations clustered in communities in the eastern part of the state stretching from New Castle northward to Huntington, Save-On was owned by Marion resident Phillip Miller, who retired after overseeing the company for nearly 40 years.
Beyond Save-On and Papa Joe’s, established store names in the Indiana Liquor Group include Muncie Liquors, Friendly Liquors, Boulevard Liquors, Jack’s Package Liquors, Ricketts Package Liquors and Monon Package Liquors.
“We’ve worked hard to have a good reputation on running our businesses efficiently and treating our employees really well, which is important to a lot of these owners,” Hupfer said. “They’ve had long-term employees, and they want them to be treated well. We’ve been fair-dealing, easy to deal with and quick to get a deal done. I think that reputation is out there now in the industry.”
In one instance, Indiana Liquor Group devised a new brand name. Noble Wine & Spirits emerged after the owner of Mr. G’s Liquors in Noblesville requested the business name be retired when he sold it to Indiana Liquor Group.
Indiana Liquor Group operates Noble Wine & Spirits stores in Anderson, Bargersville, Marion, New Castle and Noblesville.
“We decided to create our own high-end brand,” Hupfer said. “The Noble stores are bigger with more selection.”
Indiana Liquor Group’s ownership trio of Hartley, Hupfer and Feltman is expanding with smaller ownership interests purchased by the company’s day-to-day managers: Chris Lamb and former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Curtis Painter, Hupfer said.