At one time a gas station sat at the corner of West Calla Road and Market Street.
But about 14 years ago, Bill D’Amico saw a chance for something more. At the time, he was working as vice president of sales for Superior Beverage, a wholesaler distributing hundreds of wine and beer brands to retailers across Ohio.
D’Amico knew alcohol, and, more importantly, he knew how to sell it.
So when the building’s owner at 10000 Market St. died, D’Amico, along with his wife, Joyce, scooped the property up and went into business with John and Carol Potter.
Chalet Premier, a premium wine, beer and liquor wholesaler and retailer, was born.
What Bill saw was a rare opportunity to buy a liquor license, a coveted permit in a state that controls how many private outlets serve the public.
In 2011 alone, according to Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control, there were only 458 private liquor agencies, such as Chalet Premier, which contract with the division to serve as its sales agents.
Combined with another 23,000 privately owned and operated manufacturers, distributors and retailers, liquor sales reached a record $770.7 million in 2011, an increase of 3.8 percent or $28.1 million from 2010.
“We’re the largest in the area,” Bill said. “If you’re looking for selection, we have it. If we don’t, we can get it for you.”
In all, Chalet Premier boasts an estimated 11,000 products. It specializes in top-shelf bourbon and scotch and high-end wines with an additional focus on those produced locally. The store also stocks 1,000 beers, including craft beers from across the country and microbreweries in both Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“Customers are No. 1 to us,” Joyce said. “It’s a competitive business, and we’re up against bigger stores like Giant Eagle, but anybody can go buy Jack Daniels or Absolut Vodka there. We keep customers coming back with the bourbons and alcohols you won’t find anywhere else.”
Joyce added that rare Kentucky-brewed bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle, aged 20 years, or a George T. Stagg bourbon don’t stay in stock long. Some customers are so devoted to the brands they’re on a wait-list for the bourbons to arrive.
“I’ll call them before it even hits the shelf,” Joyce said during a telephone interview that found her multi-tasking as she communicated with store employees and prepared for the holiday season.
In addition to seasonal products Chalet Premier will stock, Patrick Neorr from Brown-Forman, a national distributor, will be in the store from 4 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 to offer free engraving services.
Customers can choose from Gentleman Jack or Single Barrel Jack Daniels bottles and have them engraved with a personal message for gift giving.
“It’s completely free after you make the purchase,” Joyce said of the engravings. “If you drink it, you still have the bottle as a keepsake.”