Rural Inn & Vandivier Management
Born and raised in Indianapolis.
Grew up in Lawerence as a kid and then moved down to the Southport/Perry Merdian area.
Graduated high school from Perry Meridian.
Married for 36 years with two kids.
Both kids are now involved with the business.
- Daughter handles the import craft beers for the stores.
- Son handles the warehouse for the stores but also has a pretty could pallet for bourbon.
(1:37) How did you get started in the industry?
Credit to parents. They always ran a business
“Go-fer” – Whatever they told him to go for, he went for.
(2:20) When did you take over the Rural Inn?
Managed a pizza place during high school and then worked retail and a grocery.
Bought the Rural Inn in 1984.
(3:00) Prior to that did you have a passion for this industry?
As a young man he was willing to work 6 days a week. The laws always intrigued him in this industry.
(6:35) What does the Vandivier Group encompass?
Use to be over 200 employees with cell phone shops, pawn shops, etc.
The older Ray has gotten the more he realized, bigger is not always better. He sold off 4 liquor stores about 5 years. When he was younger he enjoyed the growing part aspect of a business.
(7:34) Is there a lesson in you downsizing the Vandivier Group?
Family comes first but you can’t provide without a job. Learning to balance.
In the beginning it was 80, 90, and 100 hours of work.
Still have 50 employees.
(8:20) What does the group entail today?
The Liquor Cabinets, Sakatumi on the west side (Grandfathered permit just like Rural Inn).
(8:45) Tell us more about the carry out/bar business model you have been grandfathered in to. Bar/Liquor store law.
210 with 3-Way Carry Out License.
Building was built in 1910.
It became the Rural Inn in 1945 when the bar went in. In the late 1960s it became a liquor store as well as that was the law back then.
(10:40) What do you see as the state of the Spirit, Wine, Beer industry?
Liquor (spirits) is slowly creeping up as the leader. It use to be primarily beer and then recently became beer again with the craft beer boom.
(11:42) When did you start to see the transition of liquor, more specifically bourbon as the alcohol of choice?
For Ray the transition happened back in the late 70s when he use to drink Old Grand Dad 114.
(12:40) Do you find yourself drawn to the Bourbon side or just whiskey as a whole?
Bourbon guy but also enjoys Scotch.
(13:30) What is a bourbon? What is a scotch?
(15:25) Take us back to 1984 at the Rural Inn, what was the neighborhood like?
A working class neighborhood that was predominantly white back in 1984.
Today: The most diverse liquor in the area.
Ray’s Policy: “Everyone is welcome, and throw the assholes back out!”
(16:25) Talk about the accidents that have occurred at Rural Inn.
In the last year, the Rural Inn has been struck but vehicles. Luckily no one has been hurt, but people are in way too much of a hurry these days.
Lost his own personal collection of bottles in his office in the last crash as well as a few for the ‘right to buy raffle.’
(19:32) Who is running the Rural Inn social media?
Vince, Ray’s son, now runs the Rural Inn Instagram account and Facebook page.
Downtown is booming, the changing demographic is leading to a different clientele at the Rural Inn that is welcomed.
Increase in bourbon customers and increase in craft beer customers.
(23:30) What is a “Store Pick?” How did you establish your relationship with the distilleries to offer so many store picks?
You get the opportunity to visit the distillery and then you get to try the bourbon straight out of the barrel from the whiskey thief. Then you get to pick the barrel you want and they package it up and you get to sell exclusively at your store.
(26:50) When was your first Store Pick?
Probably 15 years ago back in 2003.
(27:05) How many Store Picks do you have on your shelf? What was your favorite Store Pick?
Over 30 store picks on the shelves right now. That is his favorite bourbon not necessarily the Pappys.
Favorite: Blantons in 2013 and one of the first 1792s he did (banana nut bread taste).
(29:19) The ‘do you like it or not’ scenario!!! Don’t worry about all the notes and finish, etc.
(30:28) What is considered a limited release?
(33:05) How many people do you think you have turned on to bourbon?
One of Ray’s strengths is letting people try some of the open bottles and learn about their tastes. Then he can give recommendations. Most people walk out with a bottle they never expected they would buy.
(34:20) What are the first Saturday tastings?
Every first Saturday at noon they offer a free whiskey tasting. Come early as they have grown significantly. You will learn how to ‘taste’ whiskey and appreciate it for what it is.
(36:10) Do you have any recommendations for newbies looking to get into bourbon?
People want to buy the $60, $100, and $150 bottles when in reality they should
(39:00) SECONDARY MARKET CONVERSATION!
-You must listen to this part-
(43:33) How does the allocation process work for a limited release?
Ray does not know what will show up on his back door from the distributor until it shows up. Something he use to get 6 cases of 5 years ago he may only get a few bottles of these days.
(45:00) Do you have customers who you know are flippers?
If you come in and purchase something from Ray you have the right to do whatever you want with that bottle.
Most allocated items don’t even show up on the shelves anymore.
(48:00) REWARDING CUSTOMERS and LOYAL CUSTOMERS!
(53:20) Is it a headache to deal with the allocation and limited release situation?
It’s hard to pick and choose because it will never be fair.
(54:40) What is the ‘right to buy’ raffle at Rural Inn?
Every time you come to the store in November and December you get a ticket. One ticket for the visit to come see Ray and then you get a ticket for every bottle you purchase.
(57:20) TASTING TIME
2016 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon:
Barrell Bourbon Batch #11
Willett Family Estate: 13 Year Bourbon : Batch #3658
2725 East Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46201
Monday - Saturday : 7:00 AM to 3:00 AM
Indiana Beverage Retailers