Tag Archives: Green’s Farms Spirit Shop

Liquor Store Chess Game: Superstore May Move Across From Castle

It’s not easy opening a liquor store in Westport.

Beyond knowing everything about all kinds of beer, wine and spirits — and about business, and the law — you need a liquor license.

There are 13 for the entire.town. All are accounted for. The only way to get one is if an existing store goes out of business. That happens about as often as you’d expect.

Castle Wine & Spirits has had a license for 25 years. From their roomy space on Post Road East — the old Boat Locker, next to the now-vacant Liberty Army & Navy store — they’ve built a large, loyal customer base.

Owned by husband and wife Craig and Marina Jensen, managed for 20-plus years by Lenore Kallay and staffed by a sharp, veteran crew that knows exactly what each customer likes (and offers new ideas of what they might like), Castle is a well-loved, under-the-radar mom-and-pop success story.

Castle Wine owner Marina Jensen and wine director Ken Maykut.

But very occasionally, one of those liquor licenses becomes available. It happened in 2018 when Saugatuck Grain + Grape — for years on Railroad Place, then Post Road West — closed.

The owner of BevMax acquired the license. They’re a “superstore” chain, with 8 locations in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, plus a nationwide shipping office in Stamford. There’s a BevMax in Norwalk, near Stew Leonard’s.

The owner of a liquor store can move anywhere in Westport that zoning allows.

The new location of BevMax is the former Pier 1 store, in the Julian’s Pizza and Rio Bravo shopping center on Post Road East.

Directly opposite Castle Wine & Spirits.

The Jensens — who opposed the move before the state liquor commission, and lost — are concerned. But they’re ready to face the competition.

“People know us,” Marina Jensen says. “We  have great products, staff and customer service. We hire local kids. We deliver.

“And we have great relationships with other liquor stores. If we don’t carry something a customer wants, we send him to Greens Farms Spirit Shop. They do the same for us.”

Castle sponsors wine tastings, and offers twice-monthly classes (up next: “California vs. France”). They work closely with local organizations, like the Westport Country Playhouse.

Wine director Ken Maykut brings in bottles not found in the big box stores or other shops in town. He’s built up the burgundy section too.

“I don’t sell wine. I educate people about it,” he says. “It’s so gratifying when someone tells me they love a bottle I suggested.”

A large selection at Castle Wine & Spirits.

Construction has not yet begun on BevMax. For now, Castle Wine & Spirits has that stretch of the Post Road to themselves.

And they look forward to new neighbors next door. A vegan restaurant is planned for the old Army & Navy spot.

No word on whether it’ll have a restaurant liquor license. If it’s BYOB, customers will know exactly where to go.

Jack’s Last Day

Yesterday — when “06880” broke the news that Jack Riley has sold his very popular Greens Farms Spirit Shop — I posted this photo:

It showed a young Jack Riley, on his first day in business: November 10, 1969.

Today — December 15, 2018 — was Jack’s last day.

The store — which will continue with new owners, and many familiar employees — was packed.

Jack opened a bottle. The large crowd of customers — aka “friends” — raised their glasses to nearly 50 years of neighborly service and smiles.

Then Nico Eisenberger asked Jack to pose once again, for posterity.

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

The hair is gone. But the passion for what he did — and the joyful way he did it — remains.

A simple toast was the least the large crowd could do.

But — like everything Jack did — it came from the heart.

Greens Farms Spirit Shop Sold; After 50 Years, We Toast Jack Riley

In November 1969, Jack Riley opened Greens Farms Spirit Shop in a Post Road strip mall near Turkey Hill South.

The holiday season is every liquor store’s Super Bowl. For nearly 50 years Jack has spent nearly every waking hour — including Christmas Eve — making sure his many loyal customers have all the whiskey, wine and beer they need.

There’s always something going on at Greens Farms Spirit Shop.

This year is different. Tomorrow — Saturday night — Jack will close up for the last time. The next day, he and his wife Eileen Proulx Riley — well-known too in town, for her long service with the Westport Library children’s department — head to California. Their 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law and 4 grandchildren are there.

For once, Jack won’t think about inventory, deliveries, or anything else work-related. Earlier this week, he sold his store.

After half a century as one of our town’s favorite merchants, he’s moving west for good.

That’s bad news for countless Westporters who started as customers, and became friends. But 50 years is a long time to own a business.

Particularly one as demanding — and in demand — as a liquor store.

Jack’s roots in the area are long and deep. He grew up in Fairfield. After graduating from Christ the King High School, he worked for an electrical distributor.

His father was the last of 4 generations of rye makers. In 1969 Jack and his dad — also a Sikorsky engineer and tool-and-die maker — found a great location for a liquor store. They spent that summer building it out.

Jack Riley at Greens Farms Spirit Shop, on the first day of business: November 10, 1969.

Jack had a great run. In a town in which many businesses have the longevity of fruit flies, Greens Farms Spirit — and its next door neighbor, Fortuna’s — have been not just consistent, but consistently good.

Jack’s store is well known not just for knowledgeable help, wine tastings, a wide selection at all price points, and the many young Westporters he’s hired and mentored, but for its genuine friendliness.

If “Cheers” was the bar where everyone knew your name, Greens Farms Spirit is the liquor store equivalent.

The wide aisles and square sales counter are places of constant banter. It’s not quite a country store with pot-bellied stove, but for a spirit shop it comes close.

In October 2012, the power was out all around town. But Jack Riley’s Greens Farms Spirit Shop was open.

Customers know Jack’s family well, because he talks proudly about them. His son Kevin and wife Genoa own a wine business. They have 3 boys, ages 13, 10 and 9. Jack’s other son Tim works for the Navy as a computer engineer. He and his wife Amy have a 6-year-old girl.

Both families live within 2 hours of each other, on the sparsely populated, beautiful central California coast.

Back row (from left): “Jack” Nelson Riley, Eileen Riley, Jack Riley. Front:
Finley, Westley and Barrett Riley. 

Jack and Eileen have bought 10 acres. They’ll build a new house. He’ll play a lot of golf. They’ll be bi-coastal until she leaves her job at the library.

And he’ll connect with a new set of customers, at Kevin’s tasting room. (He’ll no doubt see plenty of old ones too. That area — and those wines — are popular draws for Westporters.)

Most of all, Kevin says, “he looks forward to learning to drive a tractor, and be the cowboy he’s always dreamed of.”

The new owners will run Greens Farms Spirit Shop. Rob Pelletier — Jack’s longtime assistant manager — will still be there. The friendly, helpful fun vibe will continue.

But before they take over on Sunday, let’s raise our glasses one last time — in person, or online.

Here’s to you, Jack Riley: for 50 years, the true spirit of Greens Farms.

That’s The (Green’s Farms) Spirit!

When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade.

When Hurricane Sandy cut power to his store, Jack Riley kept it open anyway.

Fortunately for thirsty Westporters, Jack owns Green’s Farms Spirit Shop.

There was not a lot of light inside today. But that did not keep a steady stream of customers from buying beer, wine, hard liquor, and anything else they could carry away.

Jack Riley, his open door and dark — but bustling — store.

The credit card terminal wasn’t working, but that didn’t stop Jack. He wrote card numbers by hand. At some point, he’ll process them.

“We’ll stay open till it’s too dark to see,” he promises.

Same thing tomorrow.  Jack thinks he may still have ice then.

“Thank God you’re open!” one customer said. “I can’t make it through a 2nd day with my in-laws without alcohol.”