Multigenerational small businesses are fairly common in towns and cities across the United States. However, multigenerational businesses that last for fifty years are relatively rare.
Hendersonville is home to several small businesses which have reached their jubilee anniversaries, including Brown’s Florist and Hendersonville Tire Center. The most recent company to join this august group is Bluegrass Beverages.
The late entrepreneur Bill Sinks Sr. and his wife Darlene founded Bluegrass Beverages in November 1973. They were able to establish their business after the City of Hendersonville enacted an ordinance allowing three package liquor stores – one each in the south, middle and north portions of the city.
“Although the liquor laws were new and confusing at that time, Bill Sr. had the foresight to see what a difference that having locally owned package stores could mean for area residents,” says Bill Sr.’s grandson and current Bluegrass Beverages owner Adam Sinks. “As soon as the authorizing ordinance was passed, he applied for and received the permit to build a liquor store across the street from the Bluegrass Yacht & Country Club.
Along with opening the package store, Bill Sr. was also heavily involved in the young Hendersonville community, which had only been incorporated four years earlier. He was very passionate about local politics, particularly the effort to allow liquor by the drink in Hendersonville.
“Although it was contrary to the interests of his package store, my grandfather firmly believed that the city’s residents should be able to order drinks at restaurants and bars,” says Adam. He felt that liquor by the drink would add to the city’s growth and vitality. Thanks to his efforts, and those of my uncle Bill Jr., the city finally approved liquor by the drink during the 1990s.”
Soon after Bluegrass opened its doors, it became popular with local wine and spirits enthusiasts, who were elated at no longer having to leave town to purchase their favorite adult libations. During these early years, Bill Sr. operated the store in conjunction with two of his sons, Bill Jr. and Tim. Tim left the business in the 1980s, but Bill Jr. continued to work in the family business.
In 1985, the duo opened a companion store in East Nashville, called Sinkers Beverages, which was named after Bill Jr.’s nickname “Sinker.” While separate entities, both stores were designed to operate in conjunction with one another in order to achieve additional growth.
During the early 1990s, Bill Sr. decided that he wanted to get out of the business, and he transferred ownership of both stores to Bill Jr., who continued to operate them as usual until 2014, when the liquor landscape changed significantly.
That year, the Tennessee Legislature enacted a new law allowing grocery stores to sell wine. As part of this legislation, the act also removed many of the restrictions from liquor stores in order to help then stay competitive.
“Prior to the new legislation, package stores operated under severe restrictions. They could only sell wine and spirits – no beer, no ice, no mixers – not even a corkscrew,” says Adam. “Now, liquor stores could sell beer, food, soft drinks and other types of grocery items. Furthermore, they were now allowed to open on Sundays.”
Recognizing the seismic shift that this law would create in the industry, Bill Jr. immediately undertook a complete remodeling of Bluegrass Beverages in order to take advantage of the newfound commercial freedoms. Up until that point, Bluegrass had operated as a split operation, with the package store on one end of the building and a separate walled-off convenience store at the other end. With the limitations now removed, Bill Jr. decided to remodel and combine the two operations in 2015, resulting in a modern one-stop store.
“My uncle’s decisions were visionary, and they set the stage for the continuing growth and profitability of Bluegrass and Sinkers,” says Adam. “His quick actions enabled him to gain a true competitive advantage.”
Bill Jr. continued to operate the stores until August 2021, when he sold both businesses to his nephew Adam. Since then, Adam has worked hard to maintain steady business growth while introducing several innovations, including a loyalty program offering special perks for members.
Adam is also preparing to celebrate Bluegrass’s 50th anniversary this fall. Several special events will be held during September to commemorate the occasion, including a beer/cocktail tasting festival, a charitable wine dinner and a special bourbon and tequila tasting session. Bluegrass will also offer several limited release and promotional items during the month, as well as 50th anniversary themed merchandise.
555 East Main Street,
Hendersonville, TN 37075