Cheers Unlimited Inc. - Hamilton’s State Liquor store that has been locally owned and operated since 1989, is owned by Dan and Denise Moerkerke.
Montanan owned all State Liquor Stores until they were privatized in 1989. Dan Moerkerke, his brother, and mother bought Cheers Unlimited at that time.
Montana allows individuals at its 95 agent-owned liquor stores to stock a wide variety of wares aside from alcohol, but dictates regulations including being closed for 10 federal holidays and Sundays – which happens to fall on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve this year.
“They have never changed that state law,” Denise Moerkerke said. “Which is why we are super frustrated - these are tough dates to be closed.”
“We’re still governed by state rules but we are a private store,” Dan Moerkerke added.
Other holidays the State of Montana requires state liquor stores to be closed include Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving.
While the state controls the alcohol products and ships from the warehouse in Helena, Cheers owns its own inventory and selects its own hours of operation.
From 1989 to 2013, Cheers was located across the street but is now on the west side of Highway 93 in a store that is twice the size of the older one, making it possible to add hundreds of new products. It has large coolers for constantly keeping all the beer and some other beverages cold.
“We bought the land two years before we built on it to study traffic flow and parking needs,” Dan Moerkerke said. “Building really helped us to expand from our old store that was pretty tight. Here we bring in 20 new products a week and still have space. We’re always adding because the valley is growing – we‘re all growing together.”
Products include glass ware and bar ware, copper mugs, custom baskets for special occasions like weddings and anniversaries, cigars, e-cigs, cigarettes, gift certificates, pop, ice, snacks, mixes, liquor, wine, beer, and keg beer that is always cold.
Cheers also has the largest selection of spirits in the Bitterroot Valley and fills special orders.
“We’ve always taken customer input,” Dan Moerkerke said. “We’ll track down their special requests and find what people are looking for.”
Cheers has six employees, with little staff turnover, including Cindy Prins who has managed the store for 14 years.
“We have a lot of fun, work hard, and keep our customers happy,” Dan Moerkerke said.
Every bar with a full liquor license can sell bottles over the counter, but the bars are stocked from Cheers, which is required to follow state regulations yet can offers home delivery.
“We always have monthly specials and will have the lowest prices,” Dan Moerkerke said. “We started home delivery when we built our new shop, so if the weather is bad people can just call and we deliver to Grantsdale and Corvallis and points in between. It is fun to see people.”
Cheers also includes Montana Made products.
“There are lots of distilleries and breweries in this state,” Dan Moerkerke said. “Whoever bottles or cans something, we try to get it so we can have it here. Montana stuff means a lot. Everyone wants to have Montana stuff.”
Dan Moerkerke said he has only worked in the two-block radius his entire life.
“Back in the day this block was a gas station that I pumped gas at when I was a kid, Cozy Conoco,” he said.
He also has served on the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department.
“This town has seen a lot of change but we’re good,” he said. “It has been fun to see the town grow as it has.”
Since they'll be closed Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, the Moerkerkes recommend shopping early.
“We want to thank everybody for being so supportive of us,” Dan Moerkerke said. “We thank our employees for being so good and we thank our customers.”
Cheers is a member of The Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce, Ravalli County Tavern Association and Montana Liquor Store Owner’s Association.
Follow Cheers Unlimited Inc. on Facebook or visit the store to be alerted to random sales and new products. Liquor Store Cheers Unlimited is located at 501 So. First St. in Hamilton. Cheers is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Contact them at 363-3751 or cheers-unlimited.com.