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Queens Chronicle

Proposed mega-liquor store gets blowback

Small merchants in boro say Total Wine & More location would devastate them

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:05 pm, Thu Sep 19, 2019.

A 30,000-square-foot mega-liquor store planned for College Point would devastate the industry’s mom-and-pop merchants in Queens, a group that represents them says.

“This store is like a neutron bomb going off,” Metro Package Store Association Executive Director Michael Correra told the Chronicle.

His group is calling on the State Liquor Authority to reject Total Wine & More’s proposal for 30-02 Whitestone Expwy., where Toys “R” Us used to be.

The Maryland-based 193-store chain already has a location in Westbury, LI, though the SLA has blocked its plans to set up another location on Long Island and one in Westchester. There isn’t one in New York City.

According to LoHud, the authority identified the high number of existing liquor stores in Westchester as a main reason for rejecting the proposed store there. The company is appealing the ruling, according to the New York Post.

SLA spokesman William Crowley said it’s likely that the College Point application will be decided in November.

Total Wine & More told the Chronicle that the owner of the College Point location would be Michelle Trone, whose MCT New York Fine Wine & Spirits, LLC is the official applicant before the SLA. Trone’s father, David, and his brother, Robert, founded the company in 1991. The former, a Democrat, was elected to represent a Maryland seat in the House of Representatives last year.

Accusing Total Wine & More of the “Walmartization of the liquor business,” Correra said the proposed College Point store would be extra-challenging for smaller firms to compete with because of its location.

The site in College Point would employ about 175 people, according to Total Wine & More. Two stores would actually be there — one for wine and spirits and another for beer and food products. More than 9,000 wines and more than 4,500 liquor items would be sold.

Alex Melamudov, a Ukrainian immigrant who owns the Liquor & Wine Warehouse on the Horace Harding Expressway in Corona, is among the Queens merchants who are highly concerned about the proposal. He cited the advantages that larger business operations have over small ones.

“There is no independent retailer who will be able to compete with them,” Melamudov said.

The store owner predicted that the Maryland-based chain’s proposal for College Point could impact merchants like him the way that Uber and Lyft hurt yellow cab owners who relied on their medallions as wealth that would help them retire in financial security.

Opponents of the planned store also include a group of Queens lawmakers. Some had written letters of support for Total Wine & More to the SLA but withdrew their support after small liquor businesses in the borough and the Metro Package Store Association reached out to them.

“It saddens me to know that entrenched political interests in New York are more important to some than merit, innovation, fair competition, consumers or the opportunity to increase female participation in an industry dominated by men,” Michelle Trone said in a prepared statement.

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