By Bob Uphues
Although he's a first-time business owner, Alex Pina wanted an "old-school" feel to his retail business – a liquor store called Pineapple and Co., which opened recently in the strip mall at 7929 Cermak Road (at Desplaines Avenue) in North Riverside.
Pina, 33, said he wanted the store to exude a Prohibition Era feel, and the dark wood shelves lining one wall of the store and holding bottles of liquor, wine and cases for cigars, provides some of that quality.
And the name of the business itself – Pineapple is the English translation of the owner's Spanish last name, Pina – gives the store something of a mysterious air.
The goal is also for Pineapple and Co. to heavily feature local products – both beer and liquor.
"We want to try to have a lot of local beer from a lot of local companies," said Pina. "We want to support local companies."
Among the beer offerings are such local craft brewers as Kinslahger from Oak Park, Noon Whistle from Lombard and Revolution Brewing in Chicago. The store also carries tequila and rum made by Tailwinds Distilling Company in Plainfield.
There's also plenty of beer from the traditional large American and Mexican brewers, and while the wine selection right now is a bit limited it's an area Pina says he wants to expand.
"It's a little something for everybody," he said.
Right now, the cigar stock is limited to tobacco rolled in the Dominican Republic, but Pina expects that to be enhanced in the near future.
Opening a small liquor store focused on locally made products in this particular retail market is fairly brave. Pineapple and Co. has a formidable competitor in Binny's Beverage Depot a mile to the east and Cardinal Liquors a half-mile to the west.
But Pina sees his new store as filling a niche – convenience.
"There are a lot of people from this [neighborhood]. They don't have to get in their cars and drive," Pina said. "This is coming from the people that are buying here."
And Pina also hopes a personal touch will also go a long way. He says he engages customers to tell him what kinds of products they'd like to see in the store.
"We're taking notes of what people want to drink, what they like," Pina said. "We want to be that type of store that caters to the customer.
With just two employees – Pina and a friend – the store's hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, can make for some long days, but Pina says that's fine by him.
"Yes, but when you enjoy it, it's not bad," he said.