Monday, February 15, 2010

West Side Wine & Spirits

As Alfred's #1 source for anything harder than Keystone, West Side Wine & Spirits has been a thriving business since its opening in 1999. A liquor store in Alfred Station went out of business, and the Snyder family bought the inventory and opened a liquor store at the original location, formerly part of the Alfred Sports Center, on the corner of West University.

West Side Wine & Spirits was in business for nearly 10 years, until the October 2009 fire destroyed the liquor store, the adjacent business, and the apartments above the liquor store. That section of buildings was one of the last standing all-wooden structures dating back to the founding of the village.

Amazingly, a fluffy pine tree that stood just outside the liquor store was unscathed by the fire, and a local farm, Kent Farms, dug out the tree and nursed it through the winter. The tree is set to be planted just outside the liquor store's new location at 40 N. Main St, previously home to the Gallery gift shop. That building was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad, and both store manager Kathy Snyder and longtime employee DeAnna Harriss have discovered hidden doors and secret passageways. Interestingly enough, many employees believed the old location to be haunted, claiming to hear footsteps at night, and have clothing fall mysteriously off of their hangers.

West Side Wine & Spirits moved to their new address on March 23rd. On May 2nd, the liquor store was broken into for the first time at any location; luckily, the store's security system and video surveillance led to successful arrests. The two students were apparently not out to steal alcohol, but intended to steal the bag of confiscated licenses behind the counter. West Side Wine & Spirits confiscates false identification as well as licenses being used by anyone other than the license's owner. The store recently won awards, from both the Alfred Community Coalition and Senator Catharine Young, for Quality Risk Management Practices. These practices include being strict about their over-21 policy, and community-friendly acts such as waiting until 4pm to open on Hot Dog Day. Hot Dog Day is known for excessive drinking on the part of the students, and West Side Wine & Spirits, rather than capitalizing on the demand for alcohol, opens late to discourage unreasonable drinking, especially during the day's festivities.

Underage students often come to the liquor store, hoping to be the exception to the rule. Occasionally, turned-away students become aggressive, in which case the store's employee calls the local police. Kathy Snyder remembers one incident when a disgruntled fellow threw a bottle at at employee--such are the risks of working at a liquor store in Alfred. As Snyder says, "Being in a college town, it can be challenging, but it can be fun." One of the employees made a "No Booze 4 U!" handpuppet out of a paper wine bag. Employees must be firm but good-natured, as many turned-away student accept their situation with understanding, and in later years become legal and frequent customers. Snyder is proud of the way the store handles their customers, saying "We're very, very careful, and we try to encourage students to be responsible for themselves."

West Side Wine & Spirits, as a small, private business run by a local family, tries to carry as many local wines as possible. Many are from nearby wineries, but dozens of countries are represented in their selection. Wine tastings are held every month, and Snyder observes that wine interest has increased over the last few years, with students becoming interested in higher-quality wines. Every spring, well-dressed gentlemen come in asking about the store's "best wine," for an evening with their girlfriend or, perhaps, future fiance.

True to its name, West Side Wine & Spirits also sells a vast selection of spirits, ranging widely in price. Employee Tracy Teagarden notes that the store sells large amounts of Jägermeister and Port Royal rum, but nearly every kind of liquor is available, orange liqueurs to Irish creme whiskey. The bottles lining the shelves are a sight to see, from the dazzling, electric blue bottles of Alizé to the crown-capped, ornate round bottles of Chambord liqueur. If you're in the mood for an adventure, West Side Wine & Spirits has a collection of more unusual beverages--don't be afraid to try Hot Sex! Traditionalists, though, are always encouraged to try a bottle of the popular Vignoles wine.

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