A Dry Town No More

A new liquor store overcomes obstacles in the Connecticut town of Roxbury.

Wine & Spirits at Roxbury Station (interior pictured), which opened in Roxbury, Connecticut in March, offers customers a range of local wine, spirits, and beer, along with mainstream brands.
Wine & Spirits at Roxbury Station (interior pictured), which opened in Roxbury, Connecticut in March, offers customers a range of local wine, spirits, and beer, along with mainstream brands.

Beverage alcohol retailer Wine & Spirits at Roxbury Station opened in Roxbury, Connecticut in late March, signaling a sea change for residents who had been accustomed to traveling outside of town to purchase their wine, spirits, and beer. Roxbury was one of the last dry towns in Connecticut until 2011, when a resolution passed allowing local markets to stock beer and made opening a package store into a zoning issue. Permittee Tommy Scallon, who runs the store with general manager Evelyn Smith, had to fight a Connecticut statute that banned towns with less than 2,500 residents—Roxbury had just under that—from having a liquor store. Scallon faced numerous obstacles, and attended multiple public hearings to convince town officials to modify zoning regulations. Eventually he succeeded, and this year the result—Wine & Spirits at Roxbury Station—came to life.

The 1,600-square-foot store, which employs a staff of four, maintains a classic New England ambiance, with barn wood siding on the walls, high ceilings, and lantern-style lights. The shelves and wine racks are all wooden and custom-made. Roxbury stocks 300 SKUs of wine—priced $11-$99 a 750-ml.—organized by varietal with separate sections for French and organic offerings. Some notable options are Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon ($90) and Patz & Hall Pinot Noir ($50). “We’ve gone to great lengths to find a lot of boutique wines that we think will appeal to our customers,” Smith says, noting that customers have been gravitating toward Bordeaux, like the 2016 Clos La Coutale ($17), and Burgundies, such as the 2017 Joseph Drouhin St. Veran ($16). The store also stocks products from local Connecticut wineries, like Wild Blue blueberry dessert wine ($24 a 750-ml.) from DiGrazia Vineyards and Sachem’s Picnic semi-sweet red wine ($14) from Hopkins Vineyard.

A range of 1,000 spirits SKUs ($11-$250 a 750-ml.) is also available at Roxbury, and Scallon highlights lesser-known brands to push customers toward novel drinking experiences. Notable spirits offerings include Gin Mare Mediterranean gin ($35) and WhistlePig 12-year-old rye whiskey ($113). Japanese whiskies, including Hibiki Harmony ($80), Suntory Toki ($37), and Gyokusendo Shuzo Co. Peak ($50), are also popular at the store, as are Bourbons from Heaven’s Door ($42) and Pinhook ($55). Roxbury also carries Connecticut-made spirits like Asylum gin ($30) from Asylum Distillery, as well as Batchers’ vodka ($30) and Batchers’ Barrel Finished gin ($36) from Litchfield Distillery.

Roxbury stocks 600 SKUs of beer including mainstream brands like Coors Light ($16 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans) and Bud Light ($25 a 30-pack of 12-ounce cans), but mostly focuses on craft offerings. Three of the store’s seven beer coolers are dedicated to craft brews, with one just for local offerings, among them Black Hog Brewing Co.’s Invasion IPA ($14 a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans), Stony Creek Brewery’s Cranky IPA ($10), Thimble Island Brewing Co.’s Violet Sour Wheat ale ($12), and Kent Falls Brewing Co.’s Zep On The Jukebox ($26).

Less than three months after opening, Roxbury is seeing steady customer flow. The store has a busy events schedule, holding tastings twice a week. Roxbury plans to partner with local businesses, and is already building a rapport with neighboring restaurant Mamie’s; the B.Y.O.B. venue sends diners over to the store to purchase bottles to pair with Sunday brunch.

Roxbury also offers delivery options and occasional discounts. Smith is working to put together a rewards program wherein customers will be able to rack up points and win prizes. Gift cards will also be offered, and gift baskets are expected to keep the team busy during the holiday season. Roxbury maintains Facebook and Instagram pages to connect with customers beyond the store. Additionally, whenever the store receives a new craft beer, a post about it goes up on the BeerMenus app and site, which quickly draws beer enthusiasts.

Looking ahead, Roxbury is considering expanding into the vacant 800-square-foot space next door—currently used for storage—or using it for events. For now, though, Scallon and Smith are working hard to bring local customers beverage alcohol at long last.