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Liquor store owner Kip Earney is Southeast Technical's Outstanding Alumni

Kip Earney and wife Cathy have owned West End Liquor and Fine Cigars for the past 28 years. Kip Earney is Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical's Outstanding Alumni award winner for 2012. The award recognizes the amount of time and money Earney has donated to community organizations throughout the years.

Over the years, Kip Earney has been able to donate about $50,000 to area charities and organizations.

The Red Wing Area Food Shelf, Goodhue County Christmas Project, Toys for Tots, Women in Business, youth baseball and basketball and Red Wing Hospice are just a few of the organizations that the owner of West End Liquor and Fine Cigars has given both time and money to.

"I've always felt that this is one way with our business that we can give back," Earney said. "The town has taken care of us; we can take care of the town."

That drive to contribute to Red Wing is one of the reasons that Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical has named Earney its Outstanding Alumni for 2012.

"He's a great example of the success a Southeast Tech graduate can have, and ... he chooses to give back to the community and the college in so many ways through his volunteerism," nominator Katie Hardyman said.

Earney has owned West End, 1430 Old West Main St., for the past 28 years. When he first started, he owned half the store. His wife's parents Jim and Judy Anderson owned the other half. Then, when the Andersons retired in 2000, Earney and his wife Cathy bought out their half and became the sole owners.

Now, the Bay City native credits much of his store's success, longevity and growth to what he learned at Southeast Tech. Earney graduated from the college in 1986 with a degree in small business retail management.

"It taught you how to build a business from the ground up," Earney said. "The accounting, all the marketing, having a business plan, how to stay innovative."

Earney said because his time at the college was so long ago, he doesn't necessarily think of it all the time. However, he knows he uses what he learned there regularly.

"Sometimes you forget what got you here, but you use it every day," Earney said.

Earney is also quick to give plenty of credit to West End's customers, adding that he feels "fortunate" to have loyal buyers and community members.

In addition to the retail shop, Earney said the store also provides alcohol for weddings, business meetings and community events. And whether he or his employees are picking out a bottle of wine for a customer's family dinner or helping plan their wedding, Earney said they try to provide the best.

"We take it personally; we know these people," Earney said. "They rely on our knowledge and experience, and that means a lot to us."

Now, Earney says he's honored to receive recognition for giving back to a town he loves.

"(The award) meant a lot to me," he said. "I'm Red Wing through and through. ... I think Red Wing is a great place to live. I absolutely love the town."

Earney will be formally presented with his award during Southeast Tech's graduation ceremony 7 p.m., May 3 at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.