You know how sometimes you don't know you need something before it exists, but then it comes into your life and you can't understand how it wasn't around before? Hi-Lo Liquor is one of those things. It's a brand new kind of neighborhood liquor store/market located in Culver City, where you can pop in and stock up on all the liquor/beer/wine and snacks you could need for your weekend gathering or casual weeknight treats, perfectly curated for you by seasoned experts. So you don't have to worry that you're falling victim to the ol' choose-it-because-you-like-the-label-but-it-actually-sucks trap.
Now that I think about it, every conventional liquor store I've ever been to kind of sucks. Whenever I go to one, I definitely default to looking for things I've had before (but then I'm not trying something new), or asking lots of questions (but how do I know the salesperson shares the same taste as me or has even tried the product?). But Hi-Lo owners Chris Harris and Talmadge Lowe (Tal is the founder of Pharmacie and a damn good mixologist - he made us some drinks too so stay tuned for more on that) are two of the savviest guys I know, and exactly who I would ask for recommendations - except I probably wouldn't text them while I'm in the grocery store liquor section trying to blindly choose something that I hope doesn't suck. Luckily now I don't have to. Everything I've ever bought at Hi-Lo has been a total win, so I barely even have to ask any questions. It's a place you CAN blindly choose with confidence if you're in a hurry, or chat with the knowledgable staff, grab your cold brew for right now, your Jeni's ice cream for dessert later, and some organic baby wipes while you're at it because you just so happened to have run out. Oh and fun fact: Hi-Lo is less than a block away from their ladies' store Midland, a place I may or may not have mentioned before... like a lot.
On my last visit there, I sipped martini's, chatted with Chris and Tal, and got the scoop on Hi-Lo...
Where did the idea for Hi-Lo come from / what inspired you to open the store? Hi-Lo was the culmination of a lot of long talks about the need to upgrade the old neighborhood bodega/liquor store concept. I think we were tired of having to either travel to a good market for the basics or suck it up and buy the junk in a convenient, but out-of-date neighborhood spot. Why can’t we have both?
What's the story behind the name Hi-Lo? We wanted something short and memorable that sounded like a convenience store, but we also wanted it to be representative of what we will carry. For example, we will have “low brow” beer and spirits like Budweiser and Jack Daniels – items you can get anywhere and don’t necessarily evoke the sprit of craft or sophistication as brands. But we also wanted to carry “high brow” beers and spirits and Beechwood Brewery (local and doing really crafty things with beer) and Mulholland Spirits (brand new, hard-to-find distillers from LA). So Hi-Lo is a playful way of saying we have something for everyone.
What sets you apart from a regular ol' liquor store? We have taken the idea of a “curated” market and put it in your neighborhood. It’s both a destination and it's right around the corner.
What's your favorite product in the store right now? TALMADGE: I love the Michter’s Unblended American Whisky right now. It’s deep and rich with a long finish. Perfection in a Manhattan.
CHRIS: Beachwood Amalgamator IPA. It’s one of the best IPA’s because of it’s light but loaded with hop flower fresh taste. Amazing and a super clean finish. It’s a perfect beer in my opinion.
Any trends in liquor/wine/beer we should know about? We see that there is definitely interest in a lot of demographics now for good beer, spirits and wine. And the number of craft producers now is huge, and just getting bigger. We want to get amazing craft products to neighborhoods. When we see a line of 100 people now for beer releases at any number of breweries, it seems that we are there. The demand for really good beer is there, as is the demand for whiskey, which is exemplified by the crazy aftermarket.
What's next for you and Hi-Lo? Taking Hi-Lo to a neighborhood near you! We’re looking for a small community of cocktail enthusiasts, craft beer lovers, wine appreciators and gourmet snackers to offer us a second home. Look for us in your neighborhood soon!
Fingers crossed my neighborhood is next!
Photography by Ashley Burns