Story and photo by Karen Carr Keefe
Peter Johnson and Andrew Graziano of Buffalo, new owners of Grand Island Wines & Spirits in Tops plaza, have a business plan: Put customers first and keep the success going.
They learned that from former store owner Sam Aceti, who retired in early January from the business he and his wife, Kim, owned for 16 years.
Graziano said Aceti told them, “Take care of the customers and they’ll take care of you.”
The Acetis made their mark not only in business, but also in the community they served. Johnson and Graziano plan to follow suit. They both grew up in West Seneca, but are looking forward to getting to know Grand Island.
The new owners had looked at a couple other liquor stores, but when they met the Acetis they found what they were looking for. “We liked them. We liked the store.” He said they also liked the size, the clientele, the selection of wines and spirits and the high-end ambiance of Aceti’s Wine & Spirits.
“The liquor business was interesting to us,” Graziano said. “It was stable, predictable. The tangibility of a product that gets taken off a shelf and there’s a unique story to each product we sell … that I find interesting and fulfilling.”
Johnson said he is new to the retail experience, “but I’m enjoying it.”
“We have done some other business ventures together, namely some real estate holdings … in a small redevelopment project,” Graziano said. “We’ve been friends since we were kids, and that just developed into a business relationship.”
“The goal was not to change too much because the business, itself, worked,” Graziano said of their new ownership of the liquor store.
They want to make an even greater selection available to customers. “We’re going to look at more input from the folks on Grand Island – what they’d like to see in the store.”
“There are some tweaks in the inventory that we’ll probably make,” Johnson said. Out of a huge selection of wines, they are looking to refocus away from some that don’t move off the shelves and toward others where there is a growing demand. “We’re just trying to pay attention to what sells and what doesn’t.”
They also plan to make delivery more accessible, making it easier for those who prefer that convenience or who have a harder time getting around. To order online, go to www.grandislandws.com or www.grandislandwineandspirits.com.
“We’re looking to get involved in the Grand Island community, maybe through some team sponsorships,” Graziano said. They invite people who are interested in that to email them or stop in to the store to discuss it.
They have already taken some steps to get involved.
“One of the first things in that respect was that we played a role in a Dick & Jenny’s wine dinner,” Johnson said. The restaurant, at 1270 Baseline Road, has a lot of repeat customers specifically for those wine dinners, he explained.
“That’s a great experience. I met a lot of good customers there, who have been long-term customers – and we hope to keep them long-term customers. That’s a fun way to get to know new products, new wines,” Johnson said – “and new clientele,” Graziano added.
“One thing that is interesting, there’s an extremely avid demand for bourbons these days,” Johnson said. The business partners said there could be some kind of bourbon club or network.
Graziano said, “We’ll invite distillers here to come do tastings of products, so you come try something that you might not the chance to otherwise.”
They will gauge customers’ interest in the idea through social media, as well as developing a schedule of wine tastings that could begin sometime this month.