A Spirited History: Haskell’s Wine and Spirits

Photo courtesy of BigStock:stokkete

Photo courtesy of BigStock/stokkete

Haskell’s Wine and Spirits has been a Twin City tradition since prohibition times. This well-stocked libation destination is steeped in hometown history. I spoke with Haskell’s Vice President of E-commerce & Digital Marketing, Beau Farrell—to learn more about Haskell’s storied history.

How long has Haskell’s been around? How did Haskell’s get started?

Haskell’s was started in 1934 at the repeal of Prohibition. However, Benny and Fritzi Haskell had been supplying spirits to the Twin Cities community all during prohibition. There are countless stories of meetings in Loring Park, and swapping baby buggies, one was filled with cash, the other booze. They ran their operation out of the Radisson Hotel in downtown MPLS. Unfortunately, Benny got busted for this. But fortunately for us, Fritzie did not. So, when alcohol became legit, they put the license in her name. Back then, the license holder also had to be physically present at the store. So, what was Fritzie to do while Benny and his buddies sold the finest whiskey and gin and beer? Sell wine of course!

Fritzi brought the first container of wine into the United States from Europe in 1935. She traveled all over Europe in the mid 1930s and was guest of honor at many prestigious houses, like Hennessy, A. Hardy, and Piper Heidsick. She was a visionary. We have heard many stories from Twin City professionals from over the years, and they are all the same—lawyer passes the bar or becomes a judge, businessman closes a big deal and goes to Haskell’s to buy a bottle of Bordeaux to celebrate. Fritzie would look them up and down and ask if they knew anything about these special wines. Most answers were, “No. I just passed the bar and want to celebrate!” She wouldn’t let them buy the bottle. She would set them up with a handful of other introductory bottles and directed them, “drink these, learn to enjoy them, and when you are finished, come back and see me and maybe, just maybe I will sell you this special wine.” She started many, probably thousands, of people along in world of wine, guided by appreciation and love of the grape, and not by price and or brand. Fritzie really was a visionary, she was WAY [ahead of] her time.

What is Haskell’s specialty? What can I find there that I might not find elsewhere?

Haskell’s has a huge selection of wines, spirits, cordials, ciders, seltzers, and brews from all over the world. And we carry these at very reasonable prices.

We serve anyone who has an interest in any beverage—alcohol…wine…spirits…cordials…beers…ciders…and seltzers. Not to mention wines from almost every major growing region on Earth. Check out some of the values from the Cote du Rhone, Rioja, or the Mosel–all great wines at really great values.

Who Shops at Haskell’s? Do you tend to see repeat customers? Online customers? Curious beginners?

Whether you are an expert or a beginner, our strengths are service and selection at great prices. We travel the vineyards of the world and bring them right back to the Twin Cities for everyone to affordably enjoy. We take orders for curbside pickup, delivery, or out of the metro shipping. You can order in person, online, or over the phone. And when you call us, you actually talk to a person. We constantly take inquiries and questions from folks curious about new products, or from folks looking for pairing suggestions to make the meal special. We like to joke, ‘we can’t make the meal for you, but we can make the meal memorable!’

What have the past 13 months been like? What is it like being an alcohol retailer during a pandemic? Seeing any interesting trends?

Pandemic buying, mixed with announcements from the Governor, mixed with strange weather, mixed with social unrest, mixed with the constant change always happening in the alcohol world, mixed with European tariffs and shipping problems, dock strikes, a poor euro exchange rate, aluminum shortages and other day-to-day happenings—it has been quite the wild ride for the past year plus. Glad we are busy, but man, it was like the movie Groundhog Day, the same thing over and over for almost a year!

To someone who maybe hasn’t shopped at Haskell’s: A reason to stop in – what can you solve that another liquor store cannot?

Check us out. We are the longest operating business in [Downtown Minneapolis]—we are located in the historic Young Quinlin building on 9th street. Huge selection and great service is what we are about. We do so much more than your standard shop. Need help planning a party? Need help starting a wine cellar? What about moving or storing a cellar? Yup, we do that too. Need help selecting a wine to go with Halibut? How about a special three bottle wedding gift meant for the recipients to open and enjoy on significant years, 1st, 5th, and 10th with a letter describing the wine and when to enjoy them? These are just a few examples of what sets us apart.

Haskell’s has 12 locations around the Twin cities. Stop in and expand your alcohol education, grab that hard-to-find bottle, or request a recommendation for something new. Haskell’s has the inventory and intellect to keep you in good spirits.

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