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October 30. 2013 10:58PM

Exel readies for holiday demands for liquor

Exel Inc. becomes the exclusive warehouse of wine and liquor in the state of New Hampshire tomorrow, taking over a massive operation that had been operating out of a Nashua warehouse since 1997.

The Ohio-based Exel has built a 240,000-square-foot warehouse in Bow. Workers have been filling the warehouse for weeks, and distributors should be able to order and pick up product as of Monday, the company said.

"We've been certainly preparing for this," said Lynn Anderson, spokesman for Excel. "We're comfortable we're going to have a really successful start. We've been preparing for it; we have a plan in place."

However, wholesalers who ship product to the warehouse say there have been some problems with Excel, something they attribute to the need to fill an empty warehouse. And distributors, who deliver product from the warehouse to restaurants and retailers, are holding their breath.

"Any move of this size, you would anticipate there are going to be some hiccups," said Mike Somers, president and chief-executive of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.

Exel is taking over liquor warehousing from Law Warehouses, a Nashua-based company that took the state to court when it lost its exclusive contract. In September, the state Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction in the case, although Law continues to fight the matter in Superior Court.

On Oct. 4, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission warned retailers and restaurateurs to stock up on their inventory for the transition. Tuesday was the last day to order from Law Warehouse, and today is the last day that product will be shipped from the Nashua company, the Commission said.

Shipments start Monday out of Exel.

And for the first 11 days, customers will only be able to order liquor or wine by the case. Individual bottle orders won't be available through Nov. 11, according to the Liquor Commission.

However, Somers said only one-third of liquor licensees order directly from the warehouse; the others go through state liquor stores. Nothing will stop the larger retailers from going to the state liquor store to fill an order, he said.

On Saturday, Andrew Rowe of A&J Beverage took a tour of the Exel warehouse, he said. At the time it was about 30 percent full, he said, but the company had most of this week to continue filling it.

His company distributes wine and spirits from the warehouse to supermarkets and restaurants.

"Like anything new, you're going to have your bumps in the road, but it seems they'll work out fine," said Andrew Rowe, operations manager of A&J Beverage.

Companies who have had the most experience with the warehouse so far are shippers and wholesalers, and they have been filling the warehouse with product.mhayward@unionleader.com



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