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.