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Grabbing life by the claws: Safeway store receives national attention for hard seltzer display

Cameron Kushner and Amanda Barker check out a display made up of more than 800 cases of White Claw Hard Seltzer in the Safeway store at Sprague and Evergreen in Spokane Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2019. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Cameron Kushner and Amanda Barker check out a display made up of more than 800 cases of White Claw Hard Seltzer in the Safeway store at Sprague and Evergreen in Spokane Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2019. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Visitors to the Spokane Valley Safeway store are drawn to White Claw Ski Lodge, with its roof frosted with fluffy, cotton snow, dangling icicle lighting and a beacon of neon lights emblazoned with the hard seltzer’s logo.

Once inside the in-store display, they can warm their hands by the fire, enjoy a position on the throne or simply gaze out windows at passing patrons.

“My sister lives down in Utah, and her friends were in here one day, so they took a picture of it and they started … texting it to all of their friends,” said Derek Walker, assistant director at the store at Sprague Avenue and Evergreen Road.

“It turned into this group message with her whole family. Her family was talking about how the doors of heavens have opened up, and it’s funny to see reactions you’re getting just around people sharing it on social media.”

News of the White Claw Ski Lodge spread far wider than Walker’s family and friends.

When Kirk Howland, an Odom Corp. sales representative, and his team built the display in the Spokane Valley store, they did not anticipate a TikTok video tour of the structure to receive more than 1 million views. The attention turned out to be well worth the effort put in by seven people working nearly eight hours, including Walker.

“I think we thought we were going to get in trouble because we bought something that big, but then it just went so huge with everybody that (Derek) got props,” Howland said. “The big wigs from Safeway were even in, and they’re loving that thing.”

The viral attention started with Katherine Barner, KHQ TV producer, who took a video of the “ski lodge” Dec. 18 and posted it to her TikTok, the video app popular with teens and young adults. She put the video to the song “White Claw Christmas” by Eric Dodd and put text on the video that simply said, “This exists …”

When she went to bed that night, the video had about 1,000 views. When she woke up, views were in the hundreds of thousands. They now number more than 1 million views. Videos she’s previously posted to her account, @katzcadenza, have received about 1,000 views.

“I knew this one would probably hit the core with a lot of people on the app, so I was kind of expecting it to get a little bit more traction, but not the amount that it actually did,” Barner said.

Though White Claw – a product of Mark Anthony Brands, makers of Mike’s Hard Lemonade – was featured front and center, the display didn’t leave out Truly, a popular competitor, at the same price. Regardless, White Claw is the clear frontrunner in the hard seltzer craze and one of the top-selling alcoholic beverages in the region, Howland said, bested only by Coors Light.

During the summer, White Claw even beat out Coors Light, and the nation was in line with this Spokane sensation. Walker said they had a large, albeit less inventive, White Claw display this summer that featured the coveted variety packs. When most area supermarkets sold out, word got around that the Evergreen and Sprague location was the only place left with the product. Like bubble-seeking locusts, the Safeway was wiped clean.

Many companies have tried to jump aboard the hard seltzer craze, including Spokane-based brewer No-Li. Notably, Howland said even Budweiser is launching its own take on Jan. 13.

“That’s one thing about Anheuser Busch, they’re going to put it everywhere, and they’ll be out in every store in like two days,” Howland said.

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