Gwen Morgan and John Karren bring a new spirit to Long Beach Liquor Store

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>Gwen Morgan and her fiance John Karren are giving a fresh look to the Long Beach Liquor Store, carrying a wide variety of spirits and an extensive selection of wine.

LONG BEACH - The next time you take a trip to Washington State Liquor Store No. 511 in Long Beach, be prepared for a "spirited" experience, thanks to new contract manager Gwen Morgan.

Morgan and her fiance John Karren, took over the business on Jan. 2 of this year and began a remodel of the store, applying new flooring, walls and shelving, giving it a sparkling new appearance.

"Each shelf holds 90 bottles," said Morgan before a set of the shelves filled with a wide variety of vodkas.

The new shelves allow them to carry a wider variety of spirits. They have also added new gondola's in the center of the room that offer a wide selection of white and red wines.

"We have doubled, maybe tripled, the selection of wines," she said, "and more than doubled the selection of spirits."

For the last 12 years, Morgan has owned and operated the Pelican Landing gift store in downtown Long Beach, something that is noticeable in the liquor store.

"You can take me out of the gift shop but can't take the gifts out of me," she said.

This has indeed made its way into her new business, as she is offering beautiful glassware at the liquor store, some of which is engraved with pictures of lighthouses, grapes, crabs and other things. Others are clear glasses. They also offer gift bags for carrying bottles of wine or spirits, as well as flasks of various sizes, a popular item.

"We've re-ordered more because they've sold so well," she said. "The little baby flasks, those aren't necessarily flasks, they're for mouthwash after you've used the regular flask."

So how does someone who has spent the past dozen years of their life selling gifts go to peddling spirits? Morgan said the decline in the gift industry led her to look elsewhere.

"The gift industry is changing. The Internet has taken away a lot of our sales, our sales are down tremendously," she explained. "I've been in it a long time, I just felt that I needed to do something else."

She said she decided that she would get into something that "people either need or want, and sometimes it's both in this industry."

And while all liquor stores in Washington are owned by the state, Morgan is not a state employee, rather a contracted worker. She does not receive a salary, instead keeping an undisclosed percentage of the stores profits. All the money put into the renovation of the store came out of her pocket, in hopes that it will entice more people to come in.

"We're hoping that with the larger offering, with the weather getting better, we'll have more customers and it will pay off," she said.

And, she said catering to customers is also important to making the business successful. Morgan said they do try and bring in things that people ask for, especially those who live here on the Peninsula. She said they've already had some requests for high-ticket spirits, like Scotch whiskey.

"We had a couple in the other night from Seattle and they were looking for three different brands of Scotch, each of which was over $128."

To contact Morgan at the liquor store, call 642-2583.

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