James "Woody" Woodard is one of those long-time Franklin residents who can remember Cool Springs when it was mostly farmland. Even back then, Woody had a vision for growth in Cool Springs that lead him to become an integral part of the commercial development on Mallory Lane along Interstate 65. Suffice it to say, Woody's notion hit the nail on the head.
A decade ago, Woody decided it would be an interesting venture to open a business in the nascent Cool Springs area. Fortunately, that leap of faith has become quite a success in Williamson County. In 1995, when Cool Springs was just getting its start, Woody leased some space in the Kroger strip mall on Mallory Lane and opened the area's first selective liquor and wine store. Calling it simply Cool Springs Wine and Spirits (CSWS), Woody enjoyed modest but fast-paced success. The business did so well that in 2000, he bought land and moved across the street to a newly constructed superstore located at 1935 Mallory Lane. That development is now home to CSWS, Woody's Smokes and Brews, Cool Tans and Criallo's Bistro and Bar, a cozy restaurant owned by Woody's wife, Jackie.
Now, CSWS has become a staple to Middle Tennesseans who are looking for a vast selection of wine and spirits available at affordable prices. Ultimately, what makes CSWS such a jewel among its competitors is that Woody has based his business on what everyday people want: a shopping experience that's enjoyable, easy and convenient. Broad selection, competitive pricing and attention to details are all just added bonuses.
Based upon prior business success and personal experience, Woody believes that there are three things most people feel upon entering a wine/spirits store: first, intimidation, perhaps due to the vast selection or lack of familiarity; second, embarrassment caused by lack of knowledge; third, frustration, often exacerbated by rude staff who revel in making customers feel ignorant.
So, Woody's plan was to eliminate the intimidation factor experienced at most stores, and to replace it with a pleasant shopping experience enhanced by friendly staff who encourage questions and exploration. In Woody's words, "You don't have to know much about wine to appreciate your experience at Cool Springs Wine and Spirits."
CSWS appeals to all levels of wine drinkers. The goal at CSWS is to familiarize staff with all the store's offerings. Each week, staff members participate in wine tastings that better acquaint them with the wines they sell. So, whether you're looking for an affordable bottle of wine for dinner, or a hard-to-find wine you read about in Wine Aficionado, CSWS provides a welcoming experience to all who visit.
CSWS can definitely be called a superstore because it is big (12,000 square feet of retail space) and offers just about every wine and spirit under the sun. However, it is very compartmentalized, making all the products easy-to-find and the aisles easy to navigate. Looking down upon the store layout from the second-story offices, the rows of wine resemble streets on a map: each is cleverly named after the wine it features. So, for example, you might find Syrah Way or Chardonnay Lane.
In the front corner of the store is what Woody dubs the Children's Center — a play area equipped with toys and books so that parents (yes, CSWS welcomes shoppers with children!) can let their kids play while they browse. What other wine store do you know that offers this much convenience to its shoppers?
Browsing is, indeed, the name of the game at CSWS. There is such a vast selection that going in to buy just one bottle is difficult. You will probably end up wandering through the many aisles of bottles with enticing labels and excellent prices. When you reach the back of the store, you'll find a small room stocked with specialty wines that are rare or hard to find. This collection is a boon for customers who are developing their own wine cellars or simply looking for a fantastic bottle for a special event.
Another room in the back (effectively tucked away from the customer's line of sight) is a temperature-controlled environment where wines can be properly stored until they are ready to be put out on the floor. Last but not least, CSWS offers a special values room stocked with wines starting as low as $5.00. This area is affectionately named 'Frank's Value Room' after Woody's long-time friend and employee, Frank Comito, a man who can appreciate a good wine that's also inexpensive.
The entire store is a carefully crafted work of art, from the street signs pointing the way to a favorite bottle, to the doll collection displayed throughout. Katherine's Dolls, well known in the collector's world, are meant to soften the rough-and-tumble image that liquor stores frequently have.
CSWS provides shopping baskets and maintains the strictest of standards in keeping their store clean. The carts can be easily navigated through the wide aisles that are specially designed with no clutter (so as not to catch on those purse straps!) Woody commissioned an artist to reproduce popular paintings of wine and spirits. They, too, contribute to the beauty of the store and the overall appeal to shoppers who aren't looking for the run-of-the-mill liquor store experience.
Perhaps what makes CSWS so unique, though, is its approach to business and customer satisfaction. Their price-match guarantee means that any customer, receipt or advertisement in hand, can be sure CSWS will offer a wine not discounted in the store at the same price at which competitors are offering it. There's even a bulletin board where Woody posts competitors' ads. The price-match guarantee ensures that loyal customers — and ones who don't want to spend their time bargain hunting — can always trust the store to meet the best prices in town.
Another customer-friendly service offered by CSWS is special order cards. These cards enable customers to submit requests for wines or other products that are not currently in stock. Woodard sees this option as a good thing for both the store and the customer: "It obviously gives them the satisfaction of knowing we'll order what they're looking for, and it keeps us up to date on the newest products out there."
CSWS wants customers' opinions to be heard, as well. So, CSWS offers wine tastings to give people a chance to savor different types of wine that perhaps they would've passed by. To be a part of the weekly tastings, simply join the CSWS e-mail list and respond to the e-mail sent out each Friday. The first 50 people who reply are guaranteed a spot during the tasting.
Distributors say that Cool Springs Wine and Spirits has the largest inventory in Tennessee, which seems about right, considering their list of products can reach 5,000 at any given time. The store itself covers approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space. And because they have so much available room, they can buy in larger volume, which equates to better prices for customers.
CSWS is devoted to its loyal customers and to earning new business, as well. That's why they are involved in sponsoring, hosting and donating to so many local events, including Franklin's own Wine Down Main Street, held each fall.
As Woody himself puts it, "Our objective is to be the "place where you'll find the best price, to insure you're getting the best value out there, guaranteed."
If people's love of this store is any indication, it's a sure-fire hit.