When Albertaâ€™s liquor industry was privatized in 1993, many saw the opportunity for new business in an area that had been government controlled since the late 1800â€™s. One of these visionaries was Calgaryâ€™s own Wayne Henuset, who has not only been a part of Albertaâ€™s oil and gas industry for over four decades, but is also the proud owner of Willow Park Wines & Spirits, which has become a capstone of Albertaâ€™s liquor industry and Canadaâ€™s largest privately owned retail liquor store.
Today, we get to know a bit more about the man who has been living a dual life in the world of oil and wine and how he is loving every minute of it.
What made you want to buy the Willow Park Wines & Spirits store?
When I was originally approached with the opportunity, I had no experience in the wine industry. I did however have experience in business, so I looked at the opportunity as a land deal I could flip in a couple of years and make a good return. It was not my inten- tion to keep or stay in the business when I first bought the store. In fact, I didnâ€™t even drink at the time.
You obviously didnâ€™t sell it. What happened?
Within a year, I knew the wine and spirit industry was one I wanted to be part of long term. The people were so passionate and our customers were very ex- cited about what we were offering and couldnâ€™t wait to see what we had coming next. We were building something fresh and new, and the momentum that was building was infectious. I was hooked!
What is the Vintage Fund, and why was it created?
The Vintage Fund is something really special. It was created as our own endowment fund, so we could personally determine where money that was raised through the Willow Park Wines & Spirits Charity Wine Auction was directed towards. Today, Iâ€™m so proud of all we have accomplished. Weâ€™ve raised over fourÂ million dollars to-date and helped a number of local charities including helping to build Willow Park on the Bow, which is a 150 unit building providing affordable housing to seniors.
Whatâ€™s next for Willow Park Wines & Spirits?
Weâ€™re celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year. Itâ€™s so exciting to look back and see all that weâ€™ve done, but Iâ€™ve never been very good at staying still, so you just know Iâ€™ve got something up my sleeve to propel Willow Park Wines & Spirits forward through the next 20 years. To start, we have an extensive store renovation planned for our main store, along with some innovative web and e-commerce developments planned. Just watch, because youâ€™re going to love the experience we have planned for you.
Have you found some favourite products in 20 years?
Well, as I mentioned I wasnâ€™t much of a drinker when I first bought the store 20 years ago, but being around passionate wine, beer, and spirit producers has definitely given me a great opportunity to try many amazing products over the years. I have definitely learned to appreciate and enjoy many of our wines, spirits, and beers.