From Staff Writer Teddy Durgin

Teddy is The Beverage Journal's top writer and feature columnist.

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Edward "Teddy" Durgin

Edward "Teddy" Durgin

Teddy is a graduate of UMBC. In additional to his Beverage Journal writing duties, he is an entertainment reviewer.

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Offering Customers a Magical Escape

We all could use a little magic in our lives during these tough times. Illusions Bar & Theater in Baltimore is seeking to give us just that. This is the fourth in our series of articles on great themed bars and restaurants in and around Maryland, and Illusions does what every great themed place tries to do – provide a temporary escape for its customers.

Co-founder and magician extraordinaire Spencer Horsman says that is the most important part of his job. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he stated, “I perform because I like providing an escape for people. We all have things in our lives that we need to have an escape from, whether it’s the global pandemic or something more personal. If I can pull you out of that bubble for a little while, that’s great. On top of that, because of the mix of people we get from night to night, it’s amazing to see the interaction between folks from all walks of life. Because we put on an interactive show, I get people to meet each other, interact with each other, and learn about each other. At other places, you just interact with the server, maybe the bartender, and your date, and that’s it. Also, it’s a magic show. At the end of the day, hopefully I’ve also created a sense of wonder and mystery for you.”

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We’re stepping back in time for the third article in our series on Maryland theme bars and restaurants. Long-time industry entrepreneur Steve Wecker opened 18th & 21st in Columbia back in 2018. The supper club is a throwback to the old jazz clubs, supper clubs, and speak-easies of the 1920s and ’30s. In fact, the bar and restaurant is named after the Constitutional Amendment that enacted Prohibition and the subsequent Amendment that repealed it. When you step through the door of 18th & 21st, you are immediately transported back to a bygone time and are subsequently treated to a tailored evening experience of food and cocktails that reflect the feel of the Prohibition era. 

But you gotta look for it first! 

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This is the second in our series of articles on really cool theme bars and restaurants around Maryland. How cool is Sykesville Station in Sykesville? It actually has two themes! The first is an obvious one. The restaurant and bar is an old, former train station that was built in 1883 and is now designated an official historic building by the state. 

Sykesville Station co-owners D’Alan and Kim Baugh have embraced the history. The former stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, “The kids love it when the train goes by. The locomotives still come by here every day and rattle the entire building. They don’t stop and let passengers off anymore. They’re freight trains.”

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Posted by on in March 2022 Editions

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One of the more famous statements in Western philosophy is Socrates’ “Know thyself. The unexamined life is not worth living.” Greg David, CEO, co-owner and Chief Mixologist at George’s Beverage Company LLC, has come to know himself very well in recent years. He said in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, “I’m an entrepreneur, which sometimes make me my biggest challenge. I’m the kind of person who likes to run through walls, break down barriers, and get something to market immediately. The biggest challenge is pulling myself back a little bit, slowing my pace down, and trying to see the bigger picture just so we don’t miss any important steps in the process. The process is the most important part.”

It’s certainly been the most important part of bringing Old Bay Vodka to Maryland store shelves starting March 7th. Hanover-based George’s Beverage has partnered with McCormick & Company, Inc.’s Old Bay brand on this all-natural spirit. 

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Kaló Hemp Infused Seltzer is coming to Maryland store shelves. And rather than start this Brand Profile with what the product is, it’s probably best to educate readers on what it is not. Ivy Wimberley, Kaló’s Director of Trade Development, said it best during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal: “On the sales side, the hardest thing has been getting people to understand the difference between hemp and marijuana. We are NOT a marijuana seltzer! We are a hemp-infused seltzer. A big part of my job has been educating people.”

She continued, “We love being able to give somebody a product that’s good for you and that can help you relax. We also love turning the skeptics. Kaló is something that will help you take a breath after a can or two. Some people think it’s a hoax. But we’re giving them an all-natural way to feel good with something that’s plant-based.”

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Posted by on in February 2022 Editions

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Sitting on Top of Baltimore’s Leaderboard: 5Iron Golf.

This is the first in a series of articles on theme bars and restaurants around the state of Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The first entry couldn’t be cooler for those looking for a swinging club to swing their clubs. Five Iron Golf in Baltimore is part of a growing chain of businesses that offer golf simulators, indoor golf lessons, and top-quality food and drink choices. The goal is to re-shape urban golf culture with additional locations now up and running in Chicago, Las Vegas, Manhattan, Philadelphia, and elsewhere with more to come. 

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Posted by on in February 2022 Editions

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Feebs Distilling of Milford, Delaware, is looking to make inroads in the Maryland spirits market. It not only has the right products to sell, it has the right story to sell. Co-founder Eric Fibelkorn and his wife, Stacey Arnold, had dreamt of going into the beverage business. But it took Arnold’s cancer diagnosis in 2017 and subsequent survival to convince them that life is too short not to follow one’s bliss. Feebs Distilling, whose name is based on a Fibelkorn family nickname, was subsequently born.

In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, she recalled, “I went through all of the radiation and chemo and ended up on this side of the dirt. That’s when we decided we were going to go for it. But we were not going to mortgage the house. We don’t have investors or bank loans. We do everything out of pocket. When we started out, we would buy a barrel when we had the money. So, we only had one, 30-gallon barrel to make bourbon. That obviously has changed. We now have 30 barrels aging in the distillery.” 

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With new variants popping up, it’s clear that the coronavirus will be a factor in all aspects of our lives for some time to come, whether it’s personal or professional or political. But the wheels of government grind on. I’ve been penning these annual legislative update features for the Beverage Journal for a decade now. Last year’s edition was unlike any I had ever written up, with 2020 being the birth of COVID-19 and the absolute height of business restrictions statewide.

So, with the vaccines and booster shots and eased government policies, was 2021 really any better? Compared to 2020? Of course, it was! But two years of this now are starting to constitute an “era.” And Annapolis has adapted to these times, as have beverage industry interests looking to have their voices heard in the state capital.

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Hollywood once featured “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” about two brothers (Jeff and Beau Bridges) who are struggling musicians until they meet singer Michelle Pfeiffer. Litchield, Conn., has its own terrific Baker brothers in the form of David, Jack, and Peter Baker, co-founders of Litchfield Distillery.

Their line of bourbons, gins, vodkas, and canned cocktails are making their way into the Maryland market, and the siblings are hoping for big things. “We think our relationship with Constantine Wines is going to be a great one going forward,” said Peter Baker, the youngest of the three. “I think the demographics of Maryland are very attractive. We lose a bit of our local story the further we get away from Connecticut, but we’re pretty proud of what we do here.”

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Frederick, Md., is known for many things. County music legend Patsy Cline lived there in the 1950s. Francis Scott Key is buried there. The city’s minor league baseball team, the Frederick Keys, is named after “The Star-Spangled Banner” composer. The town has a symphony orchestra, some of the most beautiful historic churches in the state, and was briefly Maryland’s capital city in 1861 when the legislature moved from Annapolis to vote on the secession question.

But it’s also known for its eating and drinking establishments, some of the best of which are located along Market Street. Frederick is the latest in our series of articles about the Great Reopening of 2021, and it has a mostly positive story to tell coming out of the pandemic. 

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Has The Pandemic Taken a Bite Out of The Dog?

Establishments that depend on commercial-district employees as their patrons encounter unique obstacles in their attempt to return to normal.

This is the fourth in a series of articles I’ve been writing on the Great Reopening of 2021. And while the previous installments covered the successful returns to form of Baltimore, Ellicott City, and Ocean City, Md., this month’s market – the office-heavy, Montgomery County city of Bethesda – has not fared as well in the ongoing pandemic.

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Vacation destinations have seen their share of hurdles in an attempt to return to normal.

Written By Teddy Durgin  |  Photography by Ashli Mix

This is the latest in a series of articles I’ve been writing on the Great Reopening of 2021. And while the previous installments covered the successful returns to form of Baltimore and Ellicott City, nowhere has this year differed from last year in such a big and positive way as Ocean City, Md. 

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Pickles Pub is a family-friendly, game-day institution that has been serving classic pub fare since March 1988. Located across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards and near M&T Bank Stadium, it has become a Baltimore favorite among Orioles and Ravens fans, tourists, and downtown regulars. Bustling and teeming with customers before the pandemic? For sure. Empty seats and tables during the pandemic? Co-owner Tom Leonard and his staff had to pivot greatly. 

“Because we have a good brand name and we’re right across from the ballpark, the business always came to us,” he said, during a recent Beverage Journal interview. “Our whole business acumen was ‘How can we maximize this?’ and ‘How can we get more people in here and make them happy?’ Online ordering, having a social media presence, and all of that stuff – we did it, but it was an after-thought. When the pandemic happened, we didn’t transition incredibly well, because we thought like so many others, ‘Oh, by the latest, things will get back to normal in June or July.’”

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If you are reading this article and you have ever eaten at the Sunset Restaurant in Glen Burnie, then right now you are probably fondly remembering the iconic eatery’s cream of crab soup. Or maybe their shrimp salad. Or you’re just smiling at the memory of some leisurely meals you enjoyed with your friends, family, or colleagues.

Chances are, Mike Fratantuono was somewhere in your orbit during those meals. He was one of the three long-time proprietors of Sunset along with Dave and Gary Fratantuono. The family operated the restaurant for 60 years until pandemic times forced its closure at the end of last September. 

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Posted by on in August 2021 Editions

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A great reopening is underway here in Maryland. The on-premise side of the industry has taken punch after punch since the onset of COVID-19.  With restrictions lifting, restaurant and bar proprietors face many obstacles on the road 'back to normal'.  Restrictions are being lifted and people are once again venturing out to stores and entertainment, attending live events, and (of course) eating and drinking out.

Ellicott City has been part of this comeback, but that’s no surprise. The historic district of this Howard County suburb has been in comeback mode for several years now, having weathered the devastating effects of not one, but two deadly and destructive floods that happened pre-pandemic.

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Over the last 18 years of writing for the Beverage Journal, I’ve penned numerous columns in which I profiled packaged-goods stores run by fathers and sons. But it’s rare when I come across an establishment operated by a . . . mother and daughter!

So it is with Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore. JoAnn Hyatt and her daughter, Roxann Rogers, don’t just operate any store. Wells is one of the oldest and largest businesses of its kind around, first opened in 1937 and boasting more than 10,000 square feet of space. As such, it has one of the largest selections of wine, beer, and spirits you’ll ever see.

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In his 93 years, Peter Frank has witnessed Prohibition, the Repeal of Prohibition, a World War, Space Walks and Moon Walks.  For much of his time he has been an active member of the beverage alcohol business. In fact, he holds the distinction of being the longest living director of the Maryland State Licensing Beverage Association (MSLBA) board.

What’s his secret?  “I’m not retired,” he said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. “But I think it’s important that when people do retire, they at least get into volunteer work. They need to keep active. If they don’t keep active, their mind will go, and then their body will follow. Not me! I’m 93 and I’m still pretty active. You have to stay with it. And to stay with it, that means keeping up with everything.”

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Some of the best days are golf days. You’re away from the demands of your business, your family, your day-to-day life, and it’s just you and the ball . . . and maybe two or three of your buddies or colleagues. You shot a pretty decent round, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, and now you just want to relax at the clubhouse and have a drink. A beer is always good. So is a soft drink. But a lot of golfers will tell you that the best drink after 18 holes -- or at the turn -- is the Transfusion.

A mix of vodka, ginger ale, and grape juice, Transfusions are not only great to replenish the fluids, they’re also good to share in social circles. Now, Links Drinks LLC has come up with a canned, ready-to-drink version.  

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Richard Fisher has been a beer, wine, and spirits man ever since he went to work part-time at The Liquor Pump in Parkville. That was 1985. While at The Liquor Pump, Fisher soon discovered he had a real head for the packaged goods business and worked his way up to store manager. An opportunity eventually presented itself to purchase the old Timonium Liquors on the corner of York and Timonium Roads. He seized it and operated that store from 1994 to 2002.

In August of that year, he transitioned to Freeland Wine & Spirits. "We initially rented," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "But in 2008, we bought the property and did an extensive expansion."

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Across Maryland, bars and restaurants are hurting. Among those who have been hurting the worst are those in Baltimore City where Mayor Brandon Scott has imposed some of the tightest restrictions and longest lockdowns in the state. To the rescue has been The Famous Fund, which has been disbursing thousands of dollars to eating and drinking places in Charm City -- and garnering national headlines for doing so -- since its inception back in January.

The fund started as a wager between John Minadakis, owner and President of Jimmy's Famous Seafood, and Barstool Sports site owner David Portnoy, who is currently doing a national fund in support of struggling eating and drinking places. The bet was on the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Buffalo Bills playoff football game back on Jan. 16. If the Ravens won, Portnoy would have saved one restaurant in the city of Baltimore.

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Posted by on in April 2021 Editions

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"Giant Food is great for my business. It's the anchor of my shopping center. But I'm two doors down. If they were permitted to sell beer and wine, I would be out of business!"

So says Joe Gray, proprietor of Festival Wine & Spirits in Annapolis' Festival at Riva Shopping Center. Gray is one of many packaged goods store operators statewide who's alarmed that the Legislature year in and year out considers allowing major supermarkets and big-box retailers to sell beer, wine, and possibly spirits.

"I don't think people understand the ramifications of what chain stores can do to small businesses," he told me during a recent interview. "When big chains take over and push out the mom-and-pops, customers lose variety. They lose service. You won't go into a grocery store and find somebody like me there to explain a wine to you. You completely lose that kind of service. The variety will suffer too. A chain store will basically go towards the streamlined stuff. I don't know if consumers or legislators really understand that."

But it's part of Gray's side job as President of the Anne Arundel County Licensed Beverage Association (AACLBA), an affiliate of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, to make as many people understand as possible. It's all about getting the word out and showing strength in numbers.

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Joe Carolan started Casa Mia's White Marsh in 1986 as a small carryout without any beverage alcohol. He originally had only 12 employees. Flash forward nearly 35 years later, and his payroll is at 46. These 46 staff a business that has grown as the Perry Hall/White Marsh community north of Baltimore has grown. Today, Casa Mia's is a restaurant, a catering service, and a delivery operation.

"We deliver everything that we sell," Carolan stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "including packaged goods. A customer can call up and get a bottle of Jack Daniels or red wine and also order lasagna and a crab cake if they want. I did deliver cigarettes up until about five years ago … but that got too crazy!"

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Jaskinder Gill is an American success story. After coming to this country from India, he became active in the restaurant business and worked within the industry for the next 25 years. In 2016, Neal Dicken and his father were looking to sell Party Time Liquors in Mount Rainier. Gill leapt at the opportunity.

Upon taking ownership of Party Time, Gill immediately adopted an operating philosophy that he had embraced throughout his years in hospitality, the same one shared by the previous ownership of Party Time.

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I've been writing this Maryland state legislative preview article each year at this time for nearly a decade now. The annual feature is usually a look ahead to the next General Assembly Session. But there's no way to move ahead with 2021 without acknowledging 2020, quite possibly the toughest, most challenging year on record for all facets of the beverage business.

The Year of the Pandemic worked its way into each of the three interviews I did for this feature. The COVID-19 crisis was a part of many answers to the questions I posed. Ultimately, though, all concerned expressed hope for the year ahead -- hope that business can return to something resembling normal. Just as important, they are hoping that state government will work with them rather than against them in 2021.

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From Greece to Glen Burnie, It's Been a Family Affair

Christos Discount Liquors has been a pillar of the Glen Burnie/Ferndale community since 1962, and the Christopoulos family has operated the business since that time of JFK, Johnny Unitas, and Ed Sullivan.

Today, three of the family's five siblings -- John Christopoulos, brother Nick Christopoulos, and sister Madia Toll -- are the proprietors. The trio bought the business from their parents in 1991.

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Posted by on in December 2020 Editions

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Navigating a Course Into the Future

A  lot of packaged goods stores pride themselves on their customer service. Chartley Liquors in Reisterstown is proud of its customer relationships.

"We have been in the same location for 24 years," said owner Nick Vitale, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "During that time, we've grown to know our customers and their families in a very close and personal way,” added Tricia Vitale (Nick’s wife and co-owner). “Our customers enjoy being greeted by their first name. Our staff makes them feel welcome, and we give them the special attention and service. No matter how small or large their purchase is, they're all treated equally. I find it very true that what you give of yourself comes back to you tenfold whether it's a smile, a kindness . . . but, most importantly, loyalty!"

Chartley Liquors is named after the boulevard on which it is located. Vitale describes his core clientele as middle class local residents, hard working families, and single people who mostly purchase the same product over and over again. 

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There are a number of businesses in our industry that can correctly be labeled "family businesses." Huber's Orchard, Winery & Vineyards in Starlight, Indiana, is something beyond that. It is a legacy business, one that dates back to 1843 when Simon Huber settled a farm in the southern part of the Hoosier State and used his experience from his native Germany to grow fruit and make wine and brandies.

Over the decades, the farm has expanded from its original 80 acres to 700 acres today, and Huber's vision has been perpetuated through the generations of Hubers who have lived and worked the farm since. Among them is Dana Huber, Vice President of Distribution and Public Relations, and wife of co-owner Ted Huber. Ted and his first cousin, Greg Huber, are the sixth generation to run the business. And more and more beverage aficionados in the Mid-Atlantic are coming to know their products.

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Posted by on in November 2020 Editions

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Riverside Liquors is ALL about family! Co-owner David Butler says his family's roots in the packaged goods business date back to 1986 when his father, Albert, opened his first liquor store in Frederick. Dubbed Willow Tree Liquors, Albert eventually turned over management of the business to David's older sister, Cheryl Young, to return to his previous career in the computer industry.

David started working at the store part-time while going to community college and then went to work there with Cheryl full-time at age 20 (with their dad still contributing financially). In the early 1990s, the siblings heard about a new shopping center called Spring Ridge being built that would be anchored by a Weis supermarket. They eventually opened Spring Ridge Liquors at the site after selling Willow Tree to fund the move.

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Posted by on in October 2020 Editions

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The story of Nikita Corn Vodka starts during the Cold War Era when the then Premier of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev, impressed by the corn agriculture in the U.S., sought to plant corn throughout all the regions of the country--even in Siberia.

The idea proved to be mostly a disaster, but not for Ukraine. Corn is considered the "gold" of Ukraine. It is one of the main agricultural crops. There are ideal conditions for its cultivation, including fertile Ukrainian chernozem (soil rich in minerals and high moisture retention capacity). 

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S & W Liquors is celebrating 50 years in business and is, "Still Fighting the Good Fight!"  Some journalists are just fated to write certain articles. September 2020 will mark my 50th year on this planet. August 2020 marked S & W Liquors' 50th year in business. A random assignment? Or … destiny? I'm going with the latter.

Kevin Shifflett is the third-generation owner and operator of the Temple Hills store that has been in his family since the late summer of 1970. "I've been here my entire life," he said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal."

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Posted by on in September 2020 Editions

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A Family Legacy Continues

John Holmes, proprietor of Antietam Spirits in Boonsboro, recently turned the store over to his son, Chase, after running the business since 1972. Holmes had taken over the store from his own father, who founded it (as Ye Olde Spirits Shop in Frederick) in 1960. Along the way, he received lots of good advice from his dad -- advice that he has imparted to his son.

Chiefly? 

"Number one," he replied during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "you have to have product that people want. Today's customers want to know their choice is going to be there. They want to get in and get out. If people come in too many times and can't find what they want, they're not coming back. Also, you cannot have enough personal service for people! This is not a high-profit business. You have to do volume to make real money."

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The IMC Unit of MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is very appreciative of the crab cake platters prepared by Costas Inn and paid for by Drug City Liquors.

Off-Premise Establishments Help Front Line Heroes by purchasing Meals from On-Premise Establishments to then be delivered to Healthcare, Law Enforcement and Community Services ... Sound Like a CHALLENGE?  It Was!

Six years ago, the world became captivated by the Ice Bucket Challenge, an initiative that involved the dumping of a bucket of ice water over a person's head to promote awareness of and raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. The challenge encouraged nominated participants to be filmed getting doused and then nominating three others to do the same. If the nominees either didn't comply within 24 hours or simply refused to get soaked, they would have to make a charitable donation to an ALS organization. The campaign raised over $220 million in research funds.

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Chief's Bar is the kind of place people REALLY miss going to when there is a snowstorm, a tropical storm, when  they're traveling … or when there's a global outbreak of a deadly coronavirus. The business has been a community hub in Tall Timbers, Md., since 1927. David Dent is the second generation of his family to own the business since 1978. He has come to appreciate both Chief's history and the place it has in people's hearts.

"Chief's is truly 'Your Neighborhood Bar,'" he declared, during a late May interview with the Beverage Journal. " I am always amazed at the number of guests who celebrate their birthdays with us. We have hosted birthday parties for guests as young as one year old to guests well into their 90s.

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On-Premise Establishments Are NavIgating The Fog of Reopening

Nationwide, restaurants, taverns, and bars are gradually reopening in the pandemic era. And to ensure the return of nervous customers concerned with their health and exposure to a virus still active in the population, some are taking some pretty bold steps. In St. Louis County, Mo., chef-owner Robert Zanti has installed transparent, Plexiglas dividers between tables in his dining room to put guests at ease. Dan's Place Restaurant in West Greenwich, R.I., has retrofitted its indoor HVAC system with an ultra violet light and metal catalyst that effectively kills viruses in the air. 

Closer to home in Maryland and Washington, D.C., our intrepid owners and operators are being similarly aggressive. For example, several popular eateries have purchased ActivePure air purifiers from Vollara Health & Wellness. Dana and Alex Theodoropoulos, proprietors of the Black Forest Taphouse in Fallston, Md., are among them.

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Martin "Marty" Kutlik got into the beverage alcohol business right out of high school in 1977. While others his age were watching Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star that summer or the Bandit run circles around Smokey, Kutlik was working long hours as a cashier/clerk at Dutch Liquors in Parkville. Four years later, he landed a job as a salesman with McCarthy-Hicks, then Maryland distributor for Seagram's brands.

But he dreamed of being his own boss. That opportunity came in 1986 when he purchased Ridgely Liquors in Lutherville and eventually transformed it into the popular Ridgely Wines & Spirits of today. 

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Boordy Vineyards is taking orders and payments over the phone and will bring your wine to your car.

beveragemedia_may20_retail_covid_BMG_covid_logo_Some are getting by with a little help from their friends. Or, in the case of Jimmy Spiropoulos, operator of Town Center Market in Riverdale Park, a few special customers.  "We're now working behind sheets of Plexiglas that we have installed," he said. "They're hanging from the ceiling at each one of our five checkout counters. Basically, I went and bought five large sheets, and I had one of my local handymen -- who's actually a customer of mine -- install them. Customers seem to really appreciate the steps we've taken to try and protect everyone."

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Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold, Md., features a unique tag line both in store and on its website: "It's not a shopping trip … it's an experience!" And that is truth in advertising. This independently owned  business has operated at the same location since before Prohibition. Today, it offers an extensive selection of imported and domestic wines; an assortment of craft, microbrew, imported, and domestic beers; and a broad array of liquors and gourmet cheeses and foods.

Kim Lawson is the proprietor. And she is a firm believer that experiential retail is the way to stand out in today's crowded and intensely competitive market. Touting her store's features, she said, "We have a 12-tap draft system to accommodate crowler and growler fills. We have a Napa Technology Wine Station -- we call it the Wine ATM -- which allows customers to sample one-, two-, and four-ounce pours at any time. And we employ a certified cheese specialist, who will assist you in pairing your cheese or charcuterie course with your beverage of choice."

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Miller Continues to Blaze a Family Trail

There is a special kind of pressure that comes with running a legacy business, a family business, a business that has been in operation in one form or another for over 100 years. Many people aren't able to handle that pressure and cash out. The Millers of Prince George's County are a
different breed!"

In 1913, B.K. Miller Sr. opened a general store in Clinton, Md., across from where B.K. Miller Meats and Liquors is located today. Over the decades, that store sold everything from groceries, meats, and lottery tickets to clothing, building materials, and even coal. At one time, it was a beer distributor.

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"I graduated from Clemson University in 1990. I graduated on Saturday, I drove home Sunday, and went to work
Monday … and I haven't stopped since!"

The Clemson alum is Jimmy Spiropoulos. His home is Maryland. His place of work? Town Center Market in Riverdale Park, a store his father Pete started in 1988 with the purchase of Dumm's Corner Market. The Spiropoulos family moved the business from that 1,700-square-foot location to its current and much bigger address on Queensbury Road in May 2012 and changed the name.

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Chuck Ferrar, proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, turned 77 this past year. And while he says things like, "I still love the interaction with customers, but I'm fading out," there's no doubt his light is going to continue shining in Maryland's beverage business for some time to come.

"I'm retiring," he said in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "and my son-in-law David [Marberger] is going to run the store every day as he has for the last couple of years. I also have a grandson in college who wants to come in, too. So, we're anticipating three generations."  Then, he added, "because David runs the store now, I can afford to be active in the various associations and spend time with the Legislature when it opens up. Many people hate it, but I thoroughly enjoy it!"

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Bill Oertel has worked for the family business for 35 years now. He grew up in it. And this year, he is its new, incoming President. That business is Harris Crab House & Seafood Restaurant, which is situated on the Kent Narrows Waterway just four miles east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Oertel's grandfather, Bill Harris, started the operation -- initially a seafood processing business -- 72 years ago. And for more than seven decades, Oertel said, "we've been in business on the Eastern Shore selling and buying seafood. Around 1980, he wanted a place where all of his grandkids could work. So, he started a little crab shack on the [front dock of the W.H. Harris Seafood Processing House] that had picnic tables and just sold crabs and shrimp. Pretty much all of his grandkids worked there and grew up there. Most of us haven't really left."

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A year ago at this time, the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) and other small business interests were gearing up for a 2019 General Assembly where nearly 30 percent of the members were new. That was a lot of new flesh to press, a lot of new ears to tug, a lot of new hearts and minds to win over to our industry's issues and concerns.

But guys like MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani and attorney and MSLBA lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise were definitely up to the task.  "It was a learning year for a lot of folks," the former conceded, "especially with regards to alcohol legislation. It can be a difficult learning curve, and we know that. So, we did our usual Lobby Day and made sure our members connected with their legislators. All we ever want is an opportunity to explain our side. Sometimes legislators agree with us. Sometimes they don't. At the end of the day, you just want to feel like you were listened to."

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Mike Scheuerman pictured here with his wife Sheila, his 25-year-old son, Zach; and his 21-year-old daughter, Sara;
all contribute to Friendship Wine and Liquor's success.

Owner Mike Scheuerman on his Store's Success,
"We're Pretty Hard Core!"

Those are the words Mike Scheuerman used to describe his and his staff's dedication to their customers. Scheuerman is the owner of Friendship Wine and Liquor in Abingdon, Md.

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It was 10 years ago that the late Joey Smith left a thriving career in Florida commercial real estate to return to his home state of Maryland and form Prestige Beverage Group (PBG). Smith did not live to see this decade milestone. Sadly, he passed away from
lung cancer at the age of 33 in April 2016. But even in his last weeks, he put a plan
into motion that would ensure the long-term viability of his business.

About two years prior to his death, Smith began exploring the possibility of a merger with Ledroit Brands. He and Michael Cherner, who was then a managing partner at Ledroit, realized they had a similar vision. They also recognized the potential for increased market synergy. At the time, PBG was focused on the Maryland, Delaware, and D.C. markets, while Ledroit covered the District of Columbia exclusively. Their belief was that by combining the two firms, it would allow them to more effectively serve their customers and suppliers in all three markets.

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Posted by on in December 2019 Editions

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The Next Great Retail Invention?

What's been the most important invention in grocery retail over the decades? The cash register? Sure. And it's been updated frequently over the years with the latest computer and barcode technology. Security cameras? Certainly, such tech has significantly cut down on shoplifting. But many believe a more basic invention is what built grocery and packaged-goods retail into what it is today. The shopping cart!

The shopping cart was invented in 1937 by Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Humpty Dumpty grocery chain. He realized that once people's hands were full, they left his stores. So, he invented the shopping cart, which ultimately compelled people to stay in stores longer and buy more goods.

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Marshele Burgess is proprietor of Rip's Country Inn in Bowie, a business that's been around for more than 65 years. I write "business" because Rip's is really four concepts in one -- a restaurant, a bar, a deli, and a wine and spirits store. In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, Burgess talked about the challenges of overseeing such a complex operation and living up to a decades-old legacy. "What makes Rip's special is indeed our size and the combination of things we offer," she said. "We have over 100 employees. So, it's a challenge keeping everyone happy and them doing what you want them to do."

Burgess continued, "The fact that it has been here so long at this location has been an asset. We've seen the area grow around us. We are right on 301, a mile south of Route 50, and right at the edge of  197. Those are all major arteries. We get a lot of customers from our area who are regulars, and then we get a lot who are traveling through our area. It's quite a customer base."

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It's GAME on for partners Tilford Brockett and Bruce Caughman.  GAME Vodka, to be precise.  The duo is hoping their new product will become the vodka of choice for sports enthusiast throughout the Baltimore-Washington corridor and ultimately beyond.

And the two entrepreneurs are willing to get a little "in yo' face" if it means winning in this particular niche. For one, GAME is being marketed as a "vodka with balls."  Now, of course, Brockett and Caughman are cheekily referring to GAME's bottle art, with five different bottles each featuring a separate graphic of a football, baseball, basketball, tennis ball, or soccer ball.  But theirs is not a drink for winners of a participation trophy. They're hoping GAME Vodka will become known as "the taste of victory" whether you're a spectator or a player.

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Ben Golueke (pronounced Go-leck-e) started in the beverage business when he was just 15, working at his father's packaged goods store in Cockeysville Md. He worked there throughout high school and on breaks from college. After graduating from Radford University in 1996 with a degree in Business Management, he didn't have to wait long for the opportunity to run his own store.

"I've been owning and operating Mt. Airy Liquors since August 1997," he stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. Back then, the store was a 3,200-square-foot operation. He and his staff moved the business within the same shopping center in 2011 to its current 5,400-square-foot space. But it's not the size of the store that matters. "Mt. Airy Liquors stands out because of our customer service," he remarked. "The Mt. Airy Liquors crew is like one big family, too, which helps with the morale of the store. When I hire good employees, I make sure to keep them. I have employees that have been here from six months to 17 years!"

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Joseph "Joe" Stanley, the former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at F.P. Winner, passed away July 18, just four days shy of his 71st birthday. And everyone I talked to who knew him told this journalist the same thing, "Don't make your tribute article a sad one. Joe would HATE that!".

So, I'm not. This article will only briefly mention his stroke in 2008 that forced him into early retirement. Instead, it's going to focus more on the people he touched, the careers he shaped … and the time he nearly ate 50 pot stickers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards!

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Throughout Maryland and elsewhere, more and more vineyards, wineries, breweries, and distilleries are hosting special events on-site.  In some cases, they're putting on shows -- quite literally -- to get people to come out and taste their products. For instance, the Fiore Winery and Distillery in Pylesville, Md., offers its Music in the Vineyard series every Saturday night through mid-September.

Among the most active, though, is Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Md., nestled in the heart of Baltimore County's Long Green Valley. Every Saturday evening during the warm months, the property hosts a Summer Concert Series that features a diverse array of local bands and performers. And every Thursday afternoon/evening in the summer and well into the cooler months, Boordy offers its "Good Life Farmers Market."  

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