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More elbow room coming soon at Chicone’s Liquor Mart

Owner Rick Chicone and Office Manager Michelle Rinehart pause outside the expansion construction area. Both have been at Chicone’s Liquor Mart since 1984, when it was known as Plaza 94 Liquor. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Chuck Nowlen)

Chicone’s Liquor Mart has boasted one of the area’s largest selections since 1991, but it came with a trade-off: The packed aisles didn’t leave much elbow room for customers.

That’ll change big-time in mid-September after a 2,200-square-foot expansion that began in June, owner Rick Chicone said in an interview last week.

What won’t change is the store’s impressive selection of liquor, wine, beer, mixers and other items, Chicone promised. Neither will its prices.

“We’re going to have an awesome store and an even better shopping experience,” General Manager Brian Siedschlag said.

“The aisles are going to be big –- probably six-foot aisles –- and we’ll have a much better shelf presence. We’ll have four separate check-out lanes instead of boxing all the registers together like we do now, and it’ll be an even cleaner store… It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be so much easier to shop here.”

The expansion at 2312 Crestview Drive next to Hudson County Market will also include higher ceilings, LED lighting throughout and polished-concrete floors, said Office Manager Michelle Rinehart, who described the project as long overdue.

“Nothing’s been done here since ’91, so we needed a facelift,” she explained.

The opportunity came when next-door neighbor Fashion Bug closed. Chicone, who had first-refusal rights on the space, started negotiations immediately.

“We’re also following all the local licensing and approval requirements,” Rinehart noted. “Everything’s contingent on final inspections.”

Careful planning

Planning the expansion and keeping the work on track has involved everybody from “IT guys to painters,” Siedschlag said, adding: “We’ve been making sure that everything’s falling into place according to plan.”

Said Chicone: “This will really open the store up. We’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”

The first of three phases –- rehabbing the former Fashion Bug space –- was scheduled to be finished by the end of this week, Chicone said.

Phase II will involve the southern half of the existing liquor store, and Phase III will complete the project on the northern half.

In-between, there might be “a little bit of a mess” at times as the expansion proceeds, but Rinehart assured customers that the 12-person Chicone’s staff will do everything they can to make the transition a smooth one.

“We will be open and helping people find what they need to find. We’ll be making things as easy as possible for shoppers,” she said.

Then again, customer service and selection have always been tops among the store’s selling points, Chicone noted.

Here’s a quote from the business’s website at

“What separates Chicone’s from all the others? Our commitment to provide you with all the knowledge necessary to make the decision yourself. The members of our staff are well-versed in all areas, ranging from the processes that go into making a craft beer to the subtleties and nuances that mark a masterful merlot.”

Chicone, who started as Plaza 94 Liquor’s manager in 1971-72 when he was 21, added proudly: “I don’t think there’s any store in the area with this kind of selection.”

He bought Plaza 94 from the Minnesota-based Star Liquor in 1984 and moved to the current location seven years later when his former neighbor, Marketplace Foods, relocated to the Crest View Drive as County Market. Grocery stores and liquor stores are natural market partners, Chicone noted.

So far, none of the customers has complained during the expansion process, Siedschlag said, adding that it’ll all be well worth it when it’s finished.

“So we’d like our customers to bear with us for a little while,” he said, “because they’ll really notice a difference when it’s done.”

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

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