State regulations limit the number of liquor store permits allowed in each municipality. There’s a strict formula, based on population.
Westport has only 10. If owners move within a town, they can take their permit to a new location.
That’s what Saugatuck Grain + Grape has done. After decades on Railroad Place, the store moved to new digs on Post Road West.
Baird van Beever and Mimi McLaughlin have owned the store for 7 years. But the permit — which van Beever is “pretty sure” is the oldest active one in Westport — began with 2 brothers.
They sold it to Ed Strauss. Known as Depot Liquors — and blessed by its location steps away from the train station, plus excellent customer service — it thrived.
But these days, van Beever says, more Westporters telecommute, or drive to work in places that are not New York.
Parking is an issue. And the pending development of Railroad Place made continuing at that site questionable.
Van Beever knows about tradition. A 5th generation Saugatuck resident — the Haehl Insurance Agency is part of his family — he’s had a long career in the food and beverage industry.
He worked at Mansion Clam House throughout high school and college, then helped opened restaurants throughout Fairfield and Westchester Counties.
His passion is wine. With 2 kids, he was glad to get out of restaurants, and into the liquor store business.
He welcomes the move to 375 Post Road West. (That’s the small shopping center with Born of Earth and Propper Chiropractic.)
Whole Foods is nearby. Van Beever anticipates shoppers stopping in to pair a wine with the food they’ve just bought. He notes that Dan’s Liquors — next to Fresh Market — enjoys similar proximity.
Though the location is new, most things remain the same. Saugatuck Grain + Grape still offers wine tastings. All products are still hand selected. There’s still a wide variety of bitters.
But one thing, van Beever admits, is different.
“We did a lot of single beer sales at the station,” he says. “People would stop in and pick up a bottle on the way to Yankee Stadium. We don’t see that anymore.”