Haskell’s is one of the signature independent beverage alcohol chains in the U.S., located in and around Minneapolis, MN. Recently, the chain opened its thirteenth store, twice the size of any of its other, very well-appointed outlets. Hearing this, I approached Chairman and CEO Jack Farrell to do a story based on the recent opening of their newest 20,000-square-foot operation. Jack assented, commenting that it was also a good time to do the story because all four of his sons were now involved in the business. Working alongside him are sons Beau (VP E-Commerce & Marketing), John III (VP Sales & Merchandising), Brian (COO) and Ted (President).
This got me thinking about a column I wrote years ago describing how the retailing landscape of the beverage alcohol industry is replete with operations that feature second and third generations of family members, children (both sons and daughters) and grandchildren of the founders, who are genuinely appreciative of the efforts of their forebears and who also feel a responsibility to them to carry on as best as possible in their name. Though I’m sure this dynamic appears throughout many industries across America, it seems particularly compelling in our industry.
In this vein, I’d like to address a few words in dedication to one of the top beverage alcohol retailers in America over the past several decades. As many of you might already know, Burt Notarius passed away at the age of 70 this past March. Through the years, I had the good fortune to meet Burt a few times and talk to him dozens of times on the phone. I also met and talked with his son Mark a number of times, who with his brother Jonathan, formed the kind of father-and-sons retailing relationship emblematic of several noted operations in the beverage alcohol industry.
We’re proud that Burt was twice named “Beverage Dynamics Retailer of the Year,” in two different decades, most recently in January 2013, with the opening of his latest amazing retail creation, Premiere Wine & Spirits, in Amherst, NY (a Buffalo suburb), encompassing 52,000 square feet (with 30,000 square feet of retail space), as well as Mark and Jonathan’s new Premiere Gourmet, a food and beer emporium located right next door. Mark also owns Premium Wine & Spirits, in Amherst, NY, while Jonathan owns Prestige Wine & Spirits, in Orchard Park, NY.
Interestingly, Burt first entered this business in a partnership with his father and father-in-law in the late 1960s. And he eventually passed his hard-earned retailing knowledge and savvy on to his two sons, who have become successful merchants in their own right.
Commenting to the Buffalo News, Mark said of his father, “He was a man of tremendous passion and industry. There are so many winemakers who went on to become famous who remember my dad because he was among the first to buy their wine.” He added, “He had an enthusiasm to help anyone, whether it was a charity or another retailer. It wasn’t just about what was good for him. He loved to give.”