Carmine Pandolfi has operated his business, Granby Package Store, for more than 37 years. Pandolfi’s liquor permit is one of the longest-standing permits in the state. His business is one of the oldest in Granby in general.
He attributes his success to a loyal customer base, good employees — some of whom have worked at the store for more than 15 years, attentiveness to the wants and needs of customers, strong knowledge of trends in the alcohol industry and, more than anything else, good customer service.
“Customer service is the name of the game,” Pandolfi said.
While he knows he can’t carry every item that every individual customer wants, paying attention and responding to requests, along with the ability to give educated advice about prospective purchases, makes Granby Package Store a valuable resource for those looking to get the perfect wine, beer or spirit for any occasion.
Speaking to Granby Package Store’s longevity, Pandolfi’s business has been around longer than the other three liquor stores in Granby combined.
“I’m definitely the oldest one in Granby,” Pandolfi said.
He treats his employees well, and that positive environment extends to his customers. The good treatment of personnel is a two-way street for Pandolfi.
“If you don’t take care of your help, who’s going to take care of you?” he asked.
A resident of Granby for more than 32 years, Pandolfi lives right around the corner from his shop on Salmon Brook Street.
“It’s a 1 mile commute,” he said.
Pandolfi made the investment to not only own his store, but also the three-storefront building that Granby Package Store shares with Sharon’s Cookie Jar and Simsbury Cards and Comics, as well as the land surrounding it.
During the more than three decades he’s been in Granby, Pandolfi has been pleased to be part of such an involved and engaged town.
“It’s a great community, a great place to raise children,” he said, noting the excellent school system. “Everyone helps everyone else out.”
Pandolfi uses his position as a successful business owner to contribute to local causes in Granby, East Granby, Hartland, Southwick, MA and beyond. A strong supporter of Granby Memorial High School’s safe graduation program, he also is a Granby Bears football team booster. Across the state border in Southwick, Pandolfi contributes to that town’s meals on wheels program.
As fall turns to winter, Pandolfi showed that he has his finger on the pulse of his customers. Pumpkin beers, Oktoberfest beers and hard ciders are all popular seasonal sellers. Bourbon season is beginning as well, both for use in cooking and for imbibing. He said the store sells a lot of white wine, but as temperatures drop, red wines become more popular.
For Pandolfi, customers aren’t just numbers in the cash register, they’re people he can have a conversation with, keep up on local news and have fun seeing.
“That’s what’s kept me here,” he said. “[The customers] make your life easy.”
Pandolfi, a wine enthusiast, has a personal choice in the store: the Stags Leap Cabernet.
“That’s my favorite, that’s a real treat,” he said.
For everyday occasions, the J. Lohr chardonnay is another favorite.
He said he can recommend wines to go with meals and looks at wine as part of the mea, a complement to the food being served, not just a beverage served with food.
Having a liquor store for more than 30 years isn’t without its unexpected moments. Once, when stocking Old Burnside beer, Pandolfi wasn’t informed that the beer needed to be kept refrigerated to stop possibly explosive consequences. The beer’s specific content meant that it kept fermenting at room temperature. The ensuing explosion was a surprise to be sure.
A power surge at Granby Package Store was another emergency, when the extra electricity blew out the store’s TV, neon signs, credit card machine and cash register. The result was somewhat reminiscent of a war zone.
“That’s the closest I ever came to combat since I was in Vietnam,” the veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, an intelligence specialist who carried a clearance about eight to 10 levels above top secret, said with a smile.
Pandolfi has plans to retire in the coming years to a home with a scenic view in northern New Hampshire.
With retirement looming — but, as Pandolfi assured, not happening in the near future — he’ll miss one thing about his store most of all.
He said the biggest loss will be the daily interactions with the Granby community after he’s gone.
“I will miss Granby when I retire,” he said. “[I will miss] all the people I’ve gotten to meet. I really will miss so many people.”