Fillmore bids farewell after more than 40 years leading Richfield Liquor

 Fillmore bids farewell after more than 40 years leading Richfield Liquor

Richfield, Minn. (May 24, 2022) – It started with a cup of coffee and a friendly face.Tattersall Rye 13

“It was my first big interview, and I had traveled up from Chicago,” remembered Bill Fillmore, Liquor Operations Director. “One of the women that worked the front desk offered me a cup of coffee and a word of encouragement, and I knew that I wanted to work for an organization with people like her.”

That simple cup of coffee launched a career that has lasted more than four decades for Fillmore, who retires from his post on May 27.

Hired in 1981, at 26 year old, Fillmore immediately had to work against naysayers as he found his way in municipal liquor operations.

“From the beginning, the council thought I was too young,” acknowledged Fillmore. “I didn’t have any experience with municipal liquor operations, but I was impressed by a business model that generated funds to do more for its community.”

That career decision has had far-reaching benefits for Richfield, beyond the walls of its liquor stores.

“Bill chose municipal liquor because he wanted the profits to help better the community, and that is exactly what he has led for more than 40 years,” reflected City Manager Katie Rodriguez. “His depth of experience and strong focus on customer service has guided Richfield Liquor though economic booms and busts, fads and fundamental changes to the retail industry. Through it all, the stores have thrived and continued to improve our parks.”

Profits from Richfield’s municipal liquor operations provide an additional source of revenue for the city and annually generate more than $450,000 for park improvements. An additional initiative started in 2019 added a round-up option to all transactions at the four city liquor stores, allowing for another funding source for special projects. Past projects funded with round-up dollars have included the Augsburg Adventure Peak inclusive playground, the off-leash dog park, butterfly gardens and Wood Lake Nature Center’s bus scholarship program.

For Amy Markle, Recreation Services Director, Fillmore has always been a reliable partner.

“Bill has been a strong leader and advocate for building the connection between municipal liquor and proceeds benefitting the Richfield park system,” explained Markle. “Park funding hinges on liquor store success and Bill has done a terrific job making sure the stores do well through excellent customer service, being forward thinking and building relationships with vendors and staff. I am grateful to have had Bill’s leadership, partnership and friendship to improve our park system together.”

Reflecting on the changes in liquor operations over the past 40 years, Fillmore notes the obvious things like the transition from hand-keying all sales to scanning, less reliance on personal checks and specialization within the wine, beer and liquor industries themselves.

“People are looking for more quality than quantity these days,” noted Fillmore. “Most of the products people buy today weren’t even around five or ten years ago. Our managers and lead clerks do a fantastic job of watching the trends and responding to customer demand.”

And while some things have changed since 1981, the important things remain the same.

“Our customers are amazing, and we’re proud to serve them. But the reason they come into our stores is because of our staff and their high level of service. We know our customers’ names, what products they like, and how to thank them for their investment in their community when they shop at Richfield Liquors.”

His team is quick to recognize Fillmore’s leadership as well, both in the stores and in the broader field.

“Under Bill’s leadership, Richfield has constantly been at the top of municipal liquor sales for the state,” noted long time employee, Brian Jahn. “In the stores, he is always very engaged with customers, and yet gives the stores and staff great autonomy to run their own ship.”

Rodriguez notes that Fillmore leaves a legacy of thriving liquor stores, loyal customers, a dedicated staff team and wonderful Richfield parks. “He is also a valued colleague and team player, and will be missed.”

When asked about Fillmore’s impact on Richfield Liquor, Brad Langer, manager of the Cedar Liquor Store, had a spitfire answer: “Italian wine.”

Fillmore has plenty of plans for his retirement including working on his 10-acre hobby farm, spending time with his aging mother and taking fly fishing trips to in the U.S. and Canada. The decision to retire finally came at the right time, after he briefly debated retiring in early 2020.

“I was going to retire two years ago, but the pandemic started and I realized I couldn’t leave the staff with all the unknowns,” admitted Fillmore. “Civil unrest caused additional concern for our stores and employees. But through it all, we’ve had great teamwork and made it through while still serving customers, and making a dandy profit for the community. I couldn’t be prouder of this team and what we have accomplished.”