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Market Watch Honors The Nation’s Top Retailers At Annual Leaders Awards Dinner

September 28, 2018

Last night, SND sister publication Market Watch magazine honored the nation’s top beverage alcohol retailers at its annual black tie affair, the Leaders Awards Dinner, which took place at The St. Regis in New York City.

Market Watch’s 2018 Retailer of the Year award went to Chris Adams, CEO of New York City-based Sherry-Lehmann Inc. The 84-year-old fine wine retail institution has embraced the rise of technology and expanded from its original brick-and-mortar location to include warehouses in Queens, New York and El Segundo, California, all the while maintaining the impeccable customer service that first made the company a household name. Today, Sherry-Lehmann averages around $42 million in annual revenue.

Pete Carr, regional president of Bacardi North America, was named the Industry Executive of the Year. Carr has helmed Bacardi North America for four years now, overseeing the company’s ongoing premiumization efforts and a major shift from multiple distributors to aligning with Southern Glazer’s in 40 markets.

Ten new Market Watch Leaders hailing from six retail establishments were also among those honored at last night’s dinner. Here’s a look at the Leaders Class of 2018:

  • Joseph Mollica of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. Upon joining the NHLC as chairman in 2009, Mollica revolutionized the control state’s business, vastly improving its selection and modernizing its stores. Last year, state liquor sales hit a record-breaking $684 million, and growth looks slated to continue.
  • Michael Wade and Cheverly Wade-Richardson of New Jersey-based Bourbon Street Wine & Spirits. The siblings have presided over a flourishing retail business since 1996, and now report around $30 million in annual sales, thanks to their stylish retail environments and an expansive product selection.
  • Chan Cox and Robert Montgomery of Florida’s Wine World retail chain and the Wine Bar and Craft Bar on-premise venues. Together, Cox and Montgomery have formed an empire of hybrid on- and off-premise venues that have proven extremely popular in their northwestern Florida communities.
  • Steve, Adam, and Erik Acquistapace of Acquistapace’s Covington Supermarket in Covington and Mandeville, Louisiana. Founded as a grocery store in 1963, Acquistapace’s added wine and spirits SKUs in 1999, and the retailer has since developed world-class programs for both. The father-and-sons team is now eyeing opportunities for further growth in the New Orleans area.
  • Brett Pontoni of 38-unit Illinois chain Binny’s. In the late 1990’s, Pontoni helped source the chain’s first single barrel of whisky, and effectively cemented Binny’s reputation as a whisk(e)y retail powerhouse. Today, Pontoni continues to champion regional craft spirits and remains a trailblazer in the competitive retail sphere.
  • Curtis Mann of Raley’s in California. Last year, Raley’s reported around $3 billion in total sales across 125 stores, with $250 million of that coming from wine, beer, and spirits. Looking ahead, Mann intends to further boost beverage alcohol revenue by focusing on education for both staff and customers.

Three Leaders alumni were also recognized for outstanding achievements in marketing, website development, and community service. Margaret and David Jabour, 1999 Leaders—and 2004 Retailers of the Year—from Texas chain Twin Liquors, took home the prize for Best Marketing, while 2016 Leader Christian Navarro of Wally’s Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles won the award for Best Website. The Alumni award for Community Service went to Hal Gershman, a 1990 Leader from Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops in North Dakota.

The most successful brands on the market were also honored at the Leaders dinner, including Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve Bourbon—which took home the award for Spirits Brand of the Year—and Moët Hennessy’s Veuve Clicquot Champagne, named Wine Brand of the Year. Both brands surpassed the half million-case milestone in 2017.

The top-performing new products on the market were also recognized at the dinner. Pernod Ricard’s Absolut Lime won the award for Best New Spirits Product, with depletions of 128,000 in its first year of distribution. Elsewhere, Cooper & Thief from Constellation Brands won the new product award for wine, after more than tripling in size in 2017, rising from 15,000 cases to 50,000 cases by year-end.—Julia Higgins

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