Fair Shake

photo by Sarah Whiting

When customers walk into the Richfield Liquor Store at the Shops at Lyndale, they expect to see the usual racks of whiskeys and packs of beer. What they might not expect to see is the woman running things: Hayley Srur.

A North Dakota native, Srur landed in the Twin Cities in 2006. “I was 21, young, and dumb,” she laughs. She was not planning on a career in the industry, she says, but her mind was changed by her experience working with Bonnie Wold, a veteran at Richfield Municipal Liquor and a pioneering woman in liquor store management.

Wold herself was not looking for a career when she started in 1982 as a clerk at a liquor store to put  herself through school, but the city benefits were too good to pass up. Eventually, Wold became the first female manager in Richfield Municipal Liquor’s history. The key to Wold’s success, Srur says, was her focus on relationships. “We were almost like a little family,” Srur says. “Very close-knit.”

Now retired after 40 years in the business, Wold believes that her management style was different than the men who held the position. “I was more willing to listen to the employee’s side [of a conflict],” she says, “I did not make snap decisions or say it was their fault.”

“I think it is important to respect employees, not control them,” Wold continues. “They are your employee, but they are still people.”

Srur admits that Wold was like a surrogate mom to her as she acclimated to the Twin Cities. But like all good mentors, Wold pushed her friend to seek new opportunities.

Srur took leadership lessons to heart. “I like to lead by example,” she says. “I work my butt off, and my staff sees it. They work really hard for me.”

Jennifer Gisslen Lee agrees; she has worked for Srur for three years, and though she might make a higher wage elsewhere, she stays at Richfield Liquor because she values Srur’s leadership.

“From day one. I have been treated as an equal and that has made a profound difference for me,” Gisslen Lee says.

“Hayley is very open to collaboration from all of us that work with her in her store,” Gisslen Lee adds. “There is no ego there. A good idea is a good idea and it does not matter who has it.”

According to U.S. Census figures, the workforce in the beer, wine, and liquor store industry is still 64 percent male, with twice as many men in supervisory positions as women.

During her two years as store manager, Srur has worked to make the store more women-friendly, stocking many local and products from women- owned businesses.

“I am very proud to be a woman leader in a male-dominated industry,” Srur says. Gisslen Lee agrees. “Her attitude is infectious for the rest of the staff. She sets a great example for all of us.”

And to all the lost young people in the Twin Cities, Srur has great news: “I am hiring cashiers!”