has always been a Park family affair. Opened in 1942 under the name S&S Package Store in its original Scollay Square location by Lou Park, it was moved in 1947 to West Roxbury where, eventually his son Barry took it over. When it was Barry’s son Gary’s turn to start running the business, it was also time to change the name of the operation. Lou, Barry, and Gary all grew up in West Roxbury. Gary, who currently lives just over the line in Jamaica Plain, works in the store seven days a week, often till 11 p.m. - (and he will not let his photo be taken).
Why was the name changed from S&S to Gary’s Liquors?
That was in 1990. We had a chance to expand, and we were moving from another part of the strip mall to here. I thought it would be exciting and cool to name it Gary’s. I guess I was naïve. But it was cool when I was 23. And the corporate name is still S&S Package Store.
Did you always know you would be running the business some day?
It was never like, “You have to do this.” But I started working here when I was 10. I would come in after school – sweeping and mopping the floors, cleaning, dusting. And I just kept doing it. My father is still here every day; so is my brother.
But you are the owner?
Yes, I own it and I’m president. My brother David is vice president. My father is treasurer. Mom – well, her title is boss of all the bosses.
What’s the biggest part of your business – beer, wine, or liquor?
Wine. Nothing else is even close. We’re about 60-65 percent wine sales. It’s been that way since the ’80s. It’s a full service liquor store. But 80 percent of the store [space] is devoted to wine sales.
Your Web site lists wines from Acacia to Yellow Tail. Aren’t there any wines that begin with “Z”?
There’s Zaca Mesa. I’m out of it right now, but we do carry it.
How do you know what to carry?
A lot of it is personal – things that I like. When I first started, before we expanded, I was in high school. I was too young to taste, but I did read. This was in the ’80s and there were no wine journals like today. The only thing I could find was “Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Guide to Wine.” I started to read about it, and found a couple of distributors, and we had some wine racks made. At that time we had 48 different kinds of wine. Now we’ve expanded into thousands.
You have an interesting selection of cigars here.
There was a big cigar boom five or 10 years ago. Then they decided to tax them into the ground, so a decent cigar today is close to $10 a stick. I would say Macanudo and Te-Amo are our best sellers now.
So would we find you at home at night, relaxing with a nice cigar and a glass of wine?
I have a 2-year-old baby girl at home, and my wife is pregnant with our second child – so no cigars at my house. There used to be – out on the patio.
How should one store wines at home?
If you have a basement that’s cool, dark, and on the dry side, that’s perfect. Ideal conditions are 55-60 degrees. Keep the bottles laying on their side because you want the cork to be expanded like a sponge. If your basement tends to be warm, your wine will just mature faster.
Let’s say I have an unfinished bottle of red. Do I refrigerate or not?
Refrigerating a red doesn’t really do anything to help preserve the wine. The easiest and cheapest way to do it is to drop glass marbles in the bottle. What makes wine open up and then go bad is air. You need to get the air out of the bottle, but those vacuum pumps don’t really do anything. Drop glass marbles in, get the wine level as high up to the cork as you can, and you’ll get a little more time on it.
What’s the biggest selling grape today?
White wine is chardonnay, red wine is cabernet. Pinot noir was hot, and right now malbec from Argentina is hot. But cabernet and chardonnay still remain the kings, by far.
Gary’s Liquors is at 655 VFW Parkway. Hours are Mon.-Sat, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun., noon-6 p.m. Call 617-323-1122.