Best of Lawrence profile: Cork & Barrel highlights local ownership, customer service

Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored content produced by the Journal-World’s advertising department. Businesses who received a top three award in the Best of Lawrence competition are eligible to participate in the Best of Lawrence Spotlight Series program, which includes a question-and-answer profile. Look for future profiles in the print and online editions of the Journal-World.

Tell us about your business.

Cork & Barrel is a true “Locally Owned” business. We’re the owners – Jon and Alicia Smiley – we live in Lawrence and work at the store full time. Say ‘hi’ the next time you shop. We love talking to everyone!

Congratulations on being voted the “Best of Lawrence”! How does it feel to receive this recognition from the community?

There is no better community than Lawrence. We have such gratitude for our customers. It’s a tremendous honor to have won all three categories multiple years in a row. We also know that it wouldn’t be possible without our staff. They truly are amazing.

What do you believe sets your business apart?

We realize that you can’t always compete with convenience, or location. We can offer the best pricing, the best selection, and the best service. We approach each day with this in mind and try to reflect that in our business model.

How has your business evolved or grown since you first started?

We bought the stores in November 2008. Three years ago, we moved into our new space at 23rd and Ousadahl, and doubled our size. The community has really embraced this larger store. We have shoppers that come from other areas like Baldwin, Eudora, Topeka, and Kansas City. We’ve drawn that business because of the size of the store and the selection that we can offer.

Are there any upcoming projects, events, or initiatives that you’re excited about and would like the community to know?

We are proud to have added Wine Classes this year. We have wine makers and distributors come in to teach the classes. Each class is different and will touch on things like what region the grapes are grown, how the wines are produced, and what sets that winery apart from other wineries. Classes are an hour long and you’ll get to sample several wines.

Another neat thing that we’re doing with the classes is making them very accessible. The tickets are only $10 each, and we are donating all of the proceeds to different local charities. We’ve already made donations to Kansas Suicide Prevention Headquarters, and Just Food. Our next tasting will benefit Boys and Girls Club. Check out our events calendar at for our next class. They have been a HUGE hit!

The “Best of Lawrence” title often indicates a commitment to excellence in customer service. How do you ensure that every customer has a positive experience with your business?

Customer service isn’t just a buzz word to us. We have a passion for making sure we offer personal service for all customers. Whether it’s helping you figure out how much you need to buy for your next event, or helping you select a gift, or carrying your purchases to your car, we are here to help!

What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own business?

Commit to it and do it. It takes a lot of effort to run a small business. It’s a lot of hours and a lot of grit but it’s worthwhile and this is certainly a fantastic community to do it in. Lawrence embraces small businesses and people are happy to see them.

Do you have any specials to share?

It’s wine sale month. Cork & Barrel offers a FREE wine club. Members get exclusive offers and discounts. The October discount is 15% off 6 bottles or more of wine. We will also add 10% off any added spirits purchased at the same time. Stock up and save before all of your holiday entertaining!

Spotlight Series highlights the 1st, 2nd & 3rd place winners from this year’s Best of Lawrence. For more information or to see your business featured, contact