Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Liquor Store in Stoneham?

A new wine & liquor store may be coming to Stoneham and I am not sure if that is a good idea or not. Though I normally would be excited about such a new store, there are some details about this potential store that fill me with trepidation. I don't expect that this new store will be the type of place I will support.

This month, the Stoneham Board of Selectmen granted a new liquor license to RWJ Beverage LLC, this being the last available liquor license for a package store in town. This means there will be five package stores in Stoneham. This new package store is supposed to be located within the BJ’s Wholesale Club. RWJ Beverage will sublease about 2100 square feet within BJ's.

Interestingly, the Board had previously rejected this request for a liquor license back in October 2008. Some felt that this was just a way for BJ’s Wholesale Club to circumvent state law which permits a business to only possess three liquor licenses. That is why only three BJ's in the state sell liquor and wine. But RWJ claims it has no affiliation with BJ's, and my own brief searches could not find a connection.

RWJ Beverage LLC is not some small business, not some struggling entrepreneur, but is rather connected to a major corporation, the Pyramid Hotel Group. This corporation is "a privately held full-service hotel company based in Boston." It employs over 7600 employees and manages over $8 billion in hotel real estate. They now appear poised to get involved in owning package stores.

Originally known as Pyramid Beverage LLC, they changed their name to RWJ Beverage LLC in August 2008. This change came just after they were denied a request for a liquor license in Framingham. In November 2008, they were successful in Danvers in obtaining a transfer of a liquor license from Mormax Corporation, d/b/a BJ’s Wholesale Club. It seems likely they will try to obtain a third liquor license elsewhere.

What kind of liquor store will such a big corporation create? It is supposed to be a discount store, possibly similar to the stores that already exist in BJ's. The current liquor stores in BJ's have good prices though the selection is limited and service is almost nonexistent. So, I don't consider them serious competition to other liquor and wine stores. If RWJ continues to run similar liquor stores, then there is little for other stores to worry about and not much to interest wine lovers besides some lower prices on a limited selection.

I am not confident that such a major corporation is going to create the type of liquor & wine store that I prefer. I don't feel they will have the same passion that a small business owner would possess. It will be an impersonal place, relying primarily on their lower prices to attract customers. I don't foresee an educated staff who can provide intriguing recommendations. I could be wrong, but I am willing to bet I am not.

The closest wine store to BJ's is Corporate Wines at Cummings Park in Woburn, also a discount store. If anything, Corporate Wines could have some competition from the new store at BJ's. But, it should be far enough away that it won't have much effect on the other Stoneham liquor stores.

Time will tell as to what type of liquor store is created within BJ's but I don't have high expectations.


Bob Dwyer said...

This sounds similar to the wine store within the Dedham Costco. That store seems to carry many of the same brands at similar prices (though not exactly the same mix) as the Waltham Costco wine area.

The model (having the store within the store rather than just an area within the main warehouse where the wine is) seems a bit silly to me. I guess this model, combined with the 3-store limit (oh, and of course the massively restrictive interstate shipping laws), makes MA such a "unique and special" place to buy wine.

I'm curious- what do you think of the Corporate Wines business model? I stopped in there once to check out their odds and ends, but I haven't ordered from them in the past because I don't like buying straight cases typically.

Richard A. said...

Hi Bob:
I have been in there store a number of times, and attended some of their prior wine tastings. The store itself is fine, with some good prices.

As for their online ordering, I have never done so with them. I do know that several people over on the eBob site have complaints about them.

It appears that Corp Wines really does not have the wine on their website. They use distributor lists and place an order when a customer requests a certain wine. Now those lists could be outdated so that the wine is no longer available, or the price has changed. I am not sure I really like that system.

Anonymous said...

I think the wine options could be interesting. I shop at Costco in Waltham and they have the best wine selection and pricing that I have ever seen. I was told that these people that will be opening at Bjs in Stoneham are thinking of running the same model

Richard A. said...

Hello Anonymous:
As you are posting from, I am sure you have an inside track on their intentions. I am not privy to such info so I can only speculate. Though I would like to speak with someone from the company about their intentions if they would not mind being interviewed. Thanks,

Anonymous said...

I just work in the office. The guy that will be running to wine shops works down the hall and I overheard him talking about it.

Anonymous said...

Mike Reardon is the Sr VP of Pyramid Wine and spirits

Anonymous said...

Yes thats the guy that was quoted in the paper

Anonymous said...

The store is great! I shop at the BJ's in Danvers, Ma. The RWJ Beverage there has great Wine Tastings on Thur, Fri and Sat.

Richard A. said...

When are these wine tastings in Danvers?

I stopped by the Danvers store today and there were no signs mentioning any wine tastings. The wine selection is generally the same as it was when B.J.'s owned the liquor store. Plenty of the very common, mass produced wines like Yellow Tail and Cavit. Nothing exciting to me.

Anonymous said...

I was there today also about 2pm and they did have a wine tasting . Oyster Bay and Hess Cab plus a few others . I shop in Danvers and have seen a small change but I agree I havent seen that many new options. It is easier to shop because most of the different regions are together compared to before where everything was a mess .I hope to see interesting values soon