Cityscape

Berbiglia Wine & Spirits closes six stores and downsizes to one location in south KC

Berbiglia is closing most of its remaining retail liquor stores and keeping this store at 103rd and State Line open.
Berbiglia is closing most of its remaining retail liquor stores and keeping this store at 103rd and State Line open. The Kansas City Star

Longtime Kansas City liquor store chain Berbiglia Wine & Spirits is downsizing to one location.

The family-owned business, which dates to 1934, closed six stores this week and is consolidating at its remaining store at 1114 W. 103rd St. in south Kansas City.

Ralph Bondon, a partner in Berbiglia with his brother Jack, confirmed the closings as he was unloading empty boxes at the 4300 Main St. location on Wednesday. He declined to comment further, referring questions to Jack Bondon. Jack Bondon didn’t return phone calls.

In an email to their customers, the Bondons said they had talked for several years about having just one superstore.

“A store where we could carry everything and be on the floor talking to customers about wine cellars, parties, weddings and just everyday needs,” they said in the email. “Thanks for your support in the past and we are looking forward to our new concept and pending remodel.”

The brothers said they also want to expand their inventory at the 103rd Street location, offering items such as corkscrews, glasses, olives, cherries and mixers.

But the store closings came as a surprise to several Berbiglia managers, who said they were opening their stores for the day when they got a call from the corporate office to shut them down. The stores were in Brookside, midtown/Country Club Plaza, Waldo and Westport.

The Berbiglia family got into the grocery store business in 1917, but after the repeal of Prohibition they opened their first liquor store in 1934. At one time they had as many as 20 stores.

But by 2008 they were down to about 10 locations. In recent years the company faced increasing competition from national chains offering big discounts on liquor and wine, including Costco and Trader Joe’s, and increasingly savvy consumers could compare prices on a national scale on the Internet.

Specialty stores such as Underdog Wine Co. in the Crestwood Shops also catered to customers who wanted to be able to walk into a store and share their passion for wines with the proprietor.

Two Northland Berbiglia locations closed in recent years, the Brookside store downsized, and Gomer’s Fine Wine and Spirits took over the store at 1606 W. 75th.

“Back in their heyday they also had a lot of exclusives with different suppliers, but it is harder to get those now,” said Ryan Sciara, who opened Underdog a year ago and previously operated a Crossroads liquor store. “And I don’t think people thought of them as local anymore. If they are going to be smaller and more accessible, kudos to them. That’s what people want. When people walk in, they want to see a Berbiglia or someone related to a Berbiglia.”

Sciara said many of the Berbiglia stores were close together. But some of those stores are in prime spots such as Brookside. Mike’s Wine and Spirits, with locations in Waldo and Westport, is in negotiations to take over the Brookside Berbiglia store and hopes to open by mid-May.

“It’s a tough business. I know how hard it can be,” said Mike Doohan, owner of Mike’s and a Brookside resident. “I think you have to be hands-on and work it every day, but I think you can be successful.”

Marshall Rimann of Rimann Liquors said growth in retail sales has been strong in the Kansas City market. He noted the opening of Trader Joe’s in 2011 but said it hadn’t changed the marketplace significantly.

“The overall market is thriving,” Rimann said. “It’s pretty much the same players for a number of years.”

The Star’s Mark Davis contributed to this report.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.

  Comments