By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – A four-person team from Total Wine and More, Inc., appeared before the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen Oct. 27 to seek the board’s approval for a new store that would be located at 77 Turnpike, the site of the former Petco.
The retailer, based in Bethesda, Md., has 124 stores nationwide, making it the country’s largest privately-held such company.
The proposal before the selectmen Oct. 27 involved a transfer of the All Alcohol Package Store license from Grande’s Market on Quinsigamond Avenue to Total Wine and More, doing business as Massachusetts Fine Wine and Spirits, LLC. Also requested was a change of location, change of manager, pledge of stock, and pledge of LLC membership interests. The store would operate seven days a week and would be an estimated 24,000 square feet in size, and be a “bright, beautiful sweet spot” in the words of the Ed Cooper, the company’s vice president of public affairs and community relations. The new store would be an anchor store for the entire mall, which also includes Trader Joe’s, he added.
“It’s about customer experience and satisfaction,” said Cooper, as he presented to the board a letter from Trader Joe’s praising the plan for the mall. The store would employ about 50 local people, with three quarters of those positions full-time.
“Our commitment is to service. We want employees to rise in the store through the operations chain,” Cooper said.
The Total Wine team claimed the chain has the best record in the country in preventing sales to minors and alcohol abusers, and they are also open to suggestions as “corporate social responsibility is key.” In addition, they said, the corporate owners are actively involved with over 5,000 charitable groups. The team said that the application before the selectmen meets all legal standards and that the store’s offerings met the local needs of the community since it would sell spirits in the entire price range, top to bottom, something they claimed was lacking in other local liquor stores. They will also have a walk-in humidor for customers.
The store team told the selectmen that various bodies in 17 other states had previously ruled as inadmissible any objections from other liquor retailers about competition from Total Wine’s size of operation or location.
To this, Selectman James Kane said it struck him as “unfortunate” for the team to disregard comments the board might have and that the Total Wine team was being “overly aggressive” in closing the door on their comments. The Total Wine team replied that any attempt to influence the hearing by protecting existing package store licenses was improper.
Several audience members then commented on the issue.
Attorney Mark Donahue, representing Austin Liquors, which is located across Route 9 from the proposed new store’s site, asked for assurance that “everyone plays by same rules” and inquired if Total Wine’s selling liquor met a public need since there are four other liquor retailers in the area. To this the Total Wine representatives replied that their shops were magnets for other local businesses, both for residents and out of town shoppers.
Several of the selectmen had questions regarding potential traffic problems, to which the Total Wine team replied that the Planning Board had already approved the plan. They added that the former Spag’s property had generated much more traffic near this location in the past. The claim that Whole Foods was soon to petition the town for a license to sell craft beers and wine on a small scale at their location was also deemed as not relevant to this license application.
The board decided after the two hour mark had finished to adjourn the hearing to Nov. 10.