Colleen Welch, aka 'Trixie' (left), with co-owner and mom Nancy O'Connell.
"We get a lot of beer geeks," says Chris Welch, showing off the diverse selection he curates at Trixie's Liquor. He co-owns the shop with his wife (the famed Trixie, though her real name is Colleen) and in-laws at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Oak Street.
In May Trixie's Liquor celebrated its three-year anniversary. Thanks to Welch's eye for quality and his commitment to customer service, it's become a beloved neighborhood shopping destination with a decidedly beer-geeky focus in addition to a strong offering of spirits and wine.
Welch is a Sheboygan native who "moved here for school and never left." He became interested in craft beer while working as a bartender at the former Angelic Brewing, which counts multiple prominent bar figures among its alums, including Patrick Sweeney of Merchant and Adam Ginsberg of the Coopers Tavern.
"I got into beer by drinking Dean [Coffey]'s stuff. It was the late '90s, and it was the best craft bar in town," Welch recalls. After Angelic shuttered, he says, "I bounced around and decided to open a liquor store."
The location has good karma: It's been a liquor store for 60 years, most of which as Spahn's -- Welch still has the original shopping carts. These days, he says, shopping habits have changed. "Imports are dead. People want local -- they're looking for anything made in Wisconsin."
Welch describes the place as family-run store, with Colleen ordering the wine; her mom Nancy O'Connell in charge of graphic design and advertising; and dad Mark O'Connell taking care of security and the books.
"The feeling of family extends to our staff, which are like family to us," says Colleen.
Welch attributes his geeky clientele in part to his neighborhood. "My three closest bars are Tip Top Tavern, Malt House and Dexter's -- three of the best bars in Madison," he says. "People really know their beer in this part of town, and we piggyback off each other. If Malt House features Door County Brewing, they'll do a sampling here too."
He says the next big thing will be Karben4 beginning to bottle their beers. Thanks to a relationship with the neighboring brewery, Welch carries everything Karben4 makes in kegs and will carry its bottled lineup once it's available.
The selection extends to other outstanding Midwestern breweries. "People come here from other cities to shop," Welch says, "because I'm able to find the rare stuff, like Toppling Goliath" from Decorah, Iowa.
Trixie's also offers 20 sodas, a gluten-free beer display, multiple ciders and a "90-point rack" featuring highly rated beers, wines (including Wisconsin wine) and cheeses.
There's even a display for high-end craft beer in cans. "Cans are hot now," Welch explains. "You can argue that beer in cans is a better product, and it's certainly cheaper, but five years ago snobs wouldn't touch it."
Welch is proud to take an active role in helping his customers make informed choices. "When you're never going to be the biggest supermarket liquor store," he says, "you have to offer service and selection."
In Welch's glass these days? "I'm drinking tons of Unshadowed [hefeweizen] from Ale Asylum. It's the season."
Trixie's Liquor 2929 E. Washington Ave., 608-442-5347, 9 am-9 pm daily