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Dale Richard Rosen

Dale  Richard Rosen
Residing In White Plains, NY USA

New York Times

..October 6, 1996

Retail Liquor Store Fights Industry Decline
IN 1970, Dale Rosen received one of the 5,070 liquor licenses issued by the New York State Liquor Authority, which permitted him to open a retail liquor store. By 1995, almost half -- 46 percent -- of all liquor stores that had opened in 1970, were gone.

''This is a slowly declining industry,'' Mr. Rosen said. ''The mom-and-pop shops just can't compete pricewise with the superstores and the discounters.''

Yet last year was the best ever for Mr. Rosen. Sales in his store, Pickwick and Pindle, also known as Budget Liquors on East Main Street in Elmsford, increased by 13 percent. This year he estimated that sales would be even higher.

And, thereby, hangs a tale.

Mr. Rosen, 55, a native of Perham, Minn., came to New York for the first time as a visitor to the 1964 World's Fair.

''New York bowled me over,'' he recalled. ''Then and there, I vowed to return as soon as I finished school.''

In 1967, with a degree in chemistry and an M.B.A. in marketing, he boarded a bus to New York City.

''My first interview at Shell Oil landed me a job,'' he said. ''Actually, I found a lot of doors open to me. At that time, an M.B.A in market research and a technical background in chemistry was a wanted combination.''

In three years, Mr. Rosen worked for four major corporations, moving steadily up the ladder with each move.

''Long before downsizing became what it is today, I knew there was very little job security in corporate America,'' he said. ''What I saw happening at Union Carbide turned me off. At the time, I was in the market research department at Carbide, in a good job that I liked, but around me were middle managers in their 50's being let go. It came to a head when the top man in the petroleum products division, someone I had been assigned to work with, got his dissmissal notice in the morning and was packed and out by noon. At one point all four corner offices on the 27th floor were empty. 'Reorganization,' the company called it.''

It was then that he made the decision to go into business for himself, Mr. Rosen said.

When asked whether he had aways had an entrepreneurial bent, Mr. Rosen said he had not.

''My motivation was to gain some control over my own future,'' he said. ''A friend of mine, William Egelhoff, who was then working for Esso, felt the same way, so we decided to become partners -- in what, we weren't sure.''

Initially, rental-equipment and movie businesses were considered.

''Both needed too much capital,'' Mr. Rosen said. ''On the other hand, our research showed growth in the wine business. Retail stores were spiraling upward, and the marketing end didn't require a lot of capital, so we decided on a wine store.''

Reasoning that Westchester was a prime market, the partners found a space in a former train station in Elmsford.

''It was a landmark building and very visible,'' Mr. Rosen said. ''We each borrowed $5,000 on our credit cards to finance the opening. But wine was cheap then and you could buy a lot of cases for a little money. And we both kept our jobs. We worked nights and weekends in the store, but we also had a resident manager.''

Liquor was added to the inventory as a service to customers. ''They expected to be able to buy liquor as well as wine,'' Mr. Rosen said. ''But stocking liquor was a very expensive proposition and there was very little profit in it as the big liquor store in the area was the price leader and we had to match his price. However, wine was a high-profit item and that carried us.''

But when, at the end of two years, the store was still not profitable, Mr. Rosen left his job to manage the liquor store full time.

''I lived on half of my partner's salary,'' he recalled. ''In a small business the owner has to be on the premises. I worked from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M., and I still do. A year later we turned the corner, and the store has been profitable ever since. In 1980 I bought out my partner and moved to a 2,000-square-foot building on Main Street with good off-street parking.''

Mr. Rosen attributes much of his success to his willingness to try different things.

''I'm constantly experimenting,'' he said. ''For instance, I'm forever trying different types of marketing. We do a lot of direct mail, customer mailings and newspaper advertising. And every Saturday we have wine tastings in the store.''

But the most important factor, Mr. Rosen said, ''is my relationship with our customers.''

''This is a very personal business,'' he said. ''Service is the key. Customers enjoy coming in. I do quantity buying to keep prices down, but people don't buy on price alone, they want per- sonal recommendations. We taste every wine we buy. And I keep up with the trends. Right now the varietal wines, such as merlot, are replacing the generic wines like chablis.''

As a local wine retailer, Mr. Rosen said he has tried to participate in a number of community events.

''It's a way of keeping visible and doing some good at the same time,'' he said. ''We do a number of fund-raisers for the Rotary Club and Historic Hudson Valley, with customers assisting. We also conduct the wine-tasting dinners at the Rye Town Hilton.''

Yet whenever people, usually those who are retirees considering new ventures, ask Mr. Rosen about the liquor business, he said he cautions them against going into it.

''This is not a growth business but an industry in decline facing competition from wine sales made in supermarkets, on the Internet and through catalogues,'' he said. ''I was lucky. I got into a business I love at a good time and was able to carve out a niche for myself. I couldn't do it today, not when you need to invest $150,000 to $200,000 upfront in inventory before you make a sale.''