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As economy sours, spirits sales rise

Published: Fri, May 7, 2010 @ 12:01 a.m.
  Liquor Sales

Liquor sales in Ohio and The Valley are up.

Liquor sales in Ohio and The Valley are up.

By Melinda Gray


The population is dwindling and the economy is dipping, but neither are decreasing the Valley’s liquor sales — only the shelf from which we choose.

Mahoning County liquor purchases rose 1 percent last year when compared to 2008. It continues a trend over the last five years for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties: As our population or our economy have dwindled, our liquor sales have not.

“Our sales are up; they’re terrific,” said Rich Saul, co-owner of Gino’s Drive Thru and Liquor on East Midlothian Boulevard in Youngstown. During a down economy, “people have more time to smoke and more time to drink,” he said.

Nick Catsoules, co-owner of Gino’s, said that as Youngstown’s steel industry waned, the blue-collar mentality of the people did not. “Local shift (workers) in the mill go and have a shot and a beer after work. It’s a way of life in the rust belt area we’ve grown up in.”

While Mahoning County saw a 1 percent growth in 2009, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Liquor Control, retail liquor sales in Trumbull and Columbiana counties are up 2 percent from 2008.

The long-term numbers tell the same story.

The Valley, overall, has seen an 8-percent increase in liquor sales over the last five years with Columbiana County the highest at 23 percent. Trumbull County is next with a 7 percent, followed by Mahoning County with a 6 percent increase.

For all of Ohio, liquor sales were $734.8 million in 2009, up from $697.7 million in 2008.

Though sales are up, some store owners admit that people are buying cheaper alcohol.

“They are still coming in, they are just buying down,” said Jane Carelly, wife of The Beverage House owner Sam Carelly.

Saul agrees that people are downsizing on cost, for example, going from Grey Goose to Smirnoff. Customers are buying for value to make their dollar go farther, “like a Wal-Mart,” he said.

But not every customer compromises.

“Generation X goes for the gusto. They want the high end, whether they can afford it or not. They want the Grey Goose. They want the Hennessy. They want the Dom Perignon,” said Catsoules.

One possible boost for liquor store sales is the 2006 indoor smoking ban for restaurants and bars.

“You can smoke at home. That really hurt the bars bad,” said Catsoules.

Gino’s, one of six liquor stores in Youngstown, is not the only store to see an increase in 2009, but they did see more of a hike than any of the other stores. “In 2009, our liquor sales were up 31⁄2 percent,” said Saul.

He attributes this boost in sales, in part, to the location of his store and his attempts at easing the financial burden on his patrons. He offers frequent sales to get people in the door, he said.

Saul expressed surprise that sales stay high despite the loss of population and high unemployment rate. But Youngstown State University psychology professor Steve Ellyson said it’s not all that surprising. Using alcohol is like self-medicating, he said.

“When reality gets to be a bit much or things get stressful, people use (alcohol) to dull down the pain.”

A 2009 Gallup poll shows confirms that point. In recent years as the economy has fluctuated, alcohol sales and consumption have hit around 65 percent of Americans drinking. In good economic times, the number of Americans drinking some form of alcoholic beverage never drops below 55 percent.

“People use it as an anti-depressant to temporarily escape,” Ellyson said.

The NewsOutlet is a joint media venture by student and professional journalists and is a collaboration of Youngstown State University, WYSU radio and The Vindicator.


1boardmanres(40 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Well isn't that interesting! Good to see a business that is not getting ready to close its doors. It is just a shame that this type of business accomplishes nothing worthwhile but aid in the downfall of the area. As a former daily customer of this business and the other one located on South Avenue I have to say that this business growth is nothing to be proud or happy about. This owner, his employees and suppliers do not have to deal with the VERY negative effects of their product. DUI's, broken homes, alcohol related accidents and just the terrible consequences of alcohol abuse. And they certainly do not do anything to help their customers who obviously have a problem. I would go in with change raided from the couch and not once did an employee say,"Sir, brother,dude... this is hard for me to say but have you ever considered AA?" Sure they run a risk, but how about just not selling, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone".I know there are folks out there that don't go overboard, like I did, but even just a one time drunken episode can be tragic. So I am off my soapbox for now, but still on the wagon and the joy and happiness that I feel in my life for the last 3 years of sobriety out weigh the little "anti-depressant" qualities of my friend ,Kamchatka, by 10,000 to 1.

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2harleydog(243 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

yea stay off your soapbox and do something productive. just because you patronize one of these establishments doesn't mean your a drunk. most of us are law abiding people that know how to control our alcohol. it's not the business that causes you to be an alcoholic,its the people who cannot control their consumption and drink until they are out of control. quit blaming everyone for your problems and take responsiblity yourself for your actions.

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