OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Thirteen years ago, a liquor store in Aksarben Village was purchased by an ambitious woman who also enjoyed visiting the store with her grandmother every other weekend growing up.
"One of my first jobs was landscaping, I was then an attorney, and now I'm working in the liquor industry,” said Spirit World owner Laurie Hellbusch. “I just kind of always gravitated to traditionally male-dominated industries. I would say there are definitely some challenges. I think that women have to work a little harder to be taken seriously, but I think if you just put your head down and do what you do well, then eventually that comes naturally."
Spirit World has a few unique factors that separate it from other liquor stores in our area.
One of the things that stood out at Spirit World was that they served food, but Hellbusch decided to remove the kitchen during the pandemic, which gave them more retail space to highlight local products. They also added a larger bar which is unique for a liquor store - you can try before you buy.
"The idea is, you come in, have a drink, you find out what's in that drink, how to make that drink, then leave with the ingredients and go home to make the drink yourself," said Sara Pancoast, the Marketing Director at Spirit World.
The staff pride themselves on being able to educate their customers and Hellbusch has worked hard to make sure everyone feels welcome.
"We're very supported as women working in these buildings and also in this industry because Laurie has also paved a way for women in this industry locally, and a little bit more on a national level," said Pancoast.
One example of Hellbusch paving the way for women is her Facebook group called Women in Whiskey.
"It's just a safe space for women to learn about whiskey which is kind of a field that is traditionally male-dominated, so we created this space for women to be able to come and learn,” Hellbusch said. “We do events periodically, and it's just a really fun and supportive group."
On a national level, she is a founding board member of the Omaha Whiskey Fest.
"To promote whiskey in Nebraska, and to put Nebraska on the map as a valid whiskey market,” said Hellbusch, who is proud to say that the event will be returning in February 2022.
Hellbusch is also passionate about helping a local organization called Saving Grace, which takes food from area businesses and uses it to feed hungry people in our community instead of adding food waste to our landfills.
Beginning June 1, Spirit World will be holding a fundraiser for Saving Grace. You can purchase raffle tickets at $10 each for your chance to win a large Makers Mark LED sign as well as a basket full of goodies.
Tickets can be purchased at Spirit World throughout the month of June and all proceeds will go to the Saving Grace Foundation.