- Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash
After the app goes through testing, the service area will first include the Downtown core, Mud Island, and S. Main, according to Bluff City Smugglers co-founder and COO Nathan Musso. “That’s what we’re launching with, and we’re already looking at expansion into Midtown — as soon as we can and feel comfortable enough with doing that.”
Musso, a recent Rhodes graduate, says the idea for Smugglers just sort of happened. “We were up really late one night cleaning data, and it was one of those 2 a.m. thoughts that ended up turning into a company. So here we are.”
The alcohol delivery service is “running out of a start-up incubator,” Musso says. “There are five companies now coming out of our office. One of them, the original one, is [Bluff City Greens] a grocery delivery company, still going strong.
“We have logistics down, the app developing down, we think … Something that has more steep of a growth curve would be alcohol delivery. We’ve seen that the percentage change in alcohol delivery since COVID started has been enormous, and other than navigating regulations, it’s very similar to grocery delivery in logistics terms. It seemed like the right time to do it.”
Timing is everything for Smugglers, it seems. Musso had originally planned to attend grad school to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy. “Then COVID started to look like it was going to get bad. I was like, grad school does not look like a good idea right now.”
Around that time, Musso happened to run into one of the co-founders of (parent company) TRG Equity at a Midtown bar. “That’s when the grocery delivery service was kicking off, and he said, ‘Hey, I’d love for you to come on board with this.’ We knew each other, and he knew the skill sets I had, and I came on board for grocery delivery.”
- Nathan Musso
While working late-night on that project, the idea for Bluff City Smugglers hit. “Until late February or early March, I had no intentions of doing anything related to business,” he says. “And then it just kind of fell in my lap. It’s been hectic and crazy, but it’s so much fun.”
As for the jump from philosophy to running an alcohol delivery company, Musso says, “It’s a huge jump, but at the same time, it’s kind of nice not having been molded by typical business practices.
“Our company right now only employs one person who actually has taken business classes. We have psychology majors, neuroscience majors, math majors … we value this not really being molded by the typical corporate experience. Because it’s easy for someone who has been molded like that to think of barriers as actual barriers. If you throw a philosophy major at a certain problem, it’s like, ‘Why do you think that’s a barrier? Let’s try to figure out some crazy way around it.’ It’s definitely a jump, but I’m glad I was able to make that progression.”
Bluff City Smugglers is currently working to finalize a partnership with a Downtown liquor store — and plan to partner with only one per delivery area, “to keep it more of a partnership. But also [to avoid] something that our competitors do by partnering with multiple liquor stores; they kind of create price wars within that area, and it ends up being a race to the bottom and who can out-price the other. We’re a local company trying to prop up other local businesses, so we don’t see that as beneficial for anybody.”
For now, Smugglers is focusing on the app, with plans to later integrate website ordering. The delivery fee will be $3.50, with no additional service charges.
For up-to-date information on launch date and more, follow Bluff City Smugglers on social media — Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok: @901smugglers, and Snapchat: @smugglers901 — or visit 901smugglers.com.