Several years ago, Narayan “Nari” Baddam decided to pump more merchandising power into his bottled wine department. He saw modest success. But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced shelter-at-home orders one year ago, the strategy proved to be a downright masterstroke.

The co-owner of two convenience stores—2,400-square-foot Danville Park Shell and 1,800-square-foot unbranded Fuel Zone, both in Decatur, Ala.—saw wine sales spike 50% through most of 2020, accounting for 30% of Danville Park’s overall in-store sales.

“People started buying the $30 to $40 bottles we offer,” says Baddam. “I buy wine by the case, so I am able to offer attractive price points. When we expanded wine a couple years ago, we did so despite the fact this community isn’t necessarily known for its preference for wine.

“We put a lot of work into a category—wine—that didn’t have a lot of potential in this area at one time. But we worked hard to make it a draw with customers,” he says.