East Lyme – Max’s Package Store now features a larger than life Number 76 on its storefront at 329 Flanders Road.
Since the liquor store celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, CEO Alan Wilensky has decided to update the number every year because he knows how rare it is for a business to have such longevity.
Four generations of the Wilensky family have quietly served customers on the Flanders Four Corners property.
On the grounds of the liquor store once stood a farm, general store, gas station, liquor store, and barn. The original liquor store was 900 square feet. In 1971 an extension was added to the left, and in 1972 when the rear barn which historically housed chickens, cows and pigeons was absorbed into store space, the store’s new footprint swelled to more than 1,200 square feet. In 1993, the store underwent a complete interior renovation.
But Max has remained open the whole time.
Inside the liquor store, exposed ceiling beams delineate each of the expansions. The uprights of the old barn are doweled with hand cut nails. Beneath the barn, four granite columns support a load-bearing beam made from a single length of tree. There are saw marks on the barn from the mid-1800s. Each of the quarry rocks in the stone foundation is estimated to weigh over two tons.
Max: First Generation Liquor Owner
Alan Wilensky’s family traced his grandfather Max Wilensky’s path to America from Russia, where he had served as a non-volunteer member of the Russian army during the Russian Revolution. One day, Wilensky says, he was issued a three-day pass and at that point he deserted, heading for the shore. He embarked on a ship for the United States in 1918.
His journey took him to Philadelphia, Montville, and then finally to the Flemish section of East Lyme, where he purchased a 4.5-acre parcel of land that stretched from Latimer Brook to Boston Poston Road, Flanders Road and the property line next to what is now the parking lot for Flanders Donuts and Bake Shop. This part of East Lyme was mostly farmland at the time.
Max Wilensky took up residence in a single-level ranch-style house where the liquor store parking lot now stands. In 1920, next to the family home on the right side, he opened a general store and one of the very first Texaco gas stations in the country. Alan Wilensky described how the vintage pump was operated using a crank to suck a gallon of gas at a time into a glass globe.
Leo: number two
In 1946, Max Wilensky asked his son Leo, who had returned from the US Air Force after World War II, to open a package store in a building next to the current store. About ten years later, they built a duplex building at the current location, half of which served as a general store and the other half as a liquor store. Eventually, the general store side of the business was sold.
Alan Wilensky remembers coming to work weekends at the liquor store with his grandfather when he was eight years old.
“I literally learned the trade at his knees,” said Alan Wilensky. One of four siblings, he said he was the only one who wanted to work at the store. “Nobody else had the passion.”
Wilensky said the alcohol industry is very complex.
“It’s so regulated,” he said.
To be able to manage the affairs of the liquor store, he went with his father to Connecticut Package Store Association (CPSA) meetings starting when he was 13 years old.
Young Alan Wilensky learned about the liquor industry’s specific hours and days of operation, the lack of quantity discounts, and the minimum mark-up or fair trade laws that were imposed until 1980. He grew up understanding statutes, law and lobbying. Once in college, he decided to major in management at Bentley College.
“Always one-on-one,” he said of learning to focus on individual customer needs.
“It’s not a profitable product. The margins are very low,” Alan Wilensky said of liquor sales. “It’s how you buy, not sell, the product.”
He stressed that selling higher quality products and developing a strong customer base were most important. He kept mental notes of what his customers liked, and he suggested other products he thought they might like, too.
Working alongside his father until Leo Wilensky retired in 1999, Alan Wilensky ran the liquor store full time for 35 years and even served as CPSA President for seven years when he decided that he needed a change.
Liza: fourth generation operations manager
In 2015, when he decided to take up his current role as tax collector for the City of Waterford, Alan Wilensky handed over the reins of the family business to his daughter Liza, the second eldest of his four children. He is still a consultant.
“I was told I had to go home and try a different angle,” Liza Wilensky, now 30, said of earning a college degree in equine business management and difficulty in finding work in the field of their choice.
“It’s real work. It’s not easy,” Liza Wilensky said of working part-time at Max’s Package Store throughout her high school and college years. She said her parents wanted her and her siblings to take their first job somewhere else before helping out at the liquor store because “it’s family, so it’s a bit different.”
Although she has always had a passion for horses, she said it was her idea to take over the operations of Max’s Package Store. She said she stepped in so her mother Teresa Wilensky, who already ran her own tailoring business, didn’t have to. Although she runs a business that is open every day and available 24/7, Liza Wilensky currently owns two horses and still has time to feed and ride them at jumping equestrian events. obstacles.
“It’s still a comfortable space,” she said, referring to working with the same staff members she had as a teenager. She enjoys the fun aspects of the job, like tasting new products before deciding to sell them to customers.
A family liquor store
Michael Feliciano, the liquor store business manager who has worked with the Wilensky family for 25 years, has known Alan Wilensky since they attended New London High School in 1991. He said he started working at Max’s Part-Time Package Store. then he said, “Next thing you know, it turned into a wonderful relationship.”
He believes Max’s Package Store has endured as an institution because of business continuity, friendly customer service and convenient location. He also credits Max’s Package Store for taking pride in its appearance.
“We are a good-sized family store. It’s bright and clean,” he said, pointing to the many storefronts that give shoppers the feeling of an open space. “They like our selection. We make sure they don’t buy too much for an event.
Feliciano considers the gregarious natures of Leo and Alan Wilensky and the fact that Alan is “a walking encyclopedia” as factors contributing to the company’s success.
“He knows why the (liquor) laws are what they are. We do everything the right way; the legal route,” Feliciano added.