HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — For two decades Steven Magaziner has had a chain of vacation and residential rental properties, and had owned a Cherry Hill pharmacy for nearly that long.
When he retired at age 55, selling the pharmacy, a doctor who owned a couple of liquor stores gave him the idea to invest his money there.
On Sept. 5, he bought the 12,000-square-foot Canal’s Discount Liquor, adding his name to it.
But what really makes it Magaziner’s Canal’s Discount Liquor are the life-sized statues of celebrities that soon appeared inside and out at the store.
Marilyn Monroe, C3PO from “Star Wars,” Elvis — make that two Elvises — Batman and more line the sidewalk facing the Black Horse Pike.
The look may be new to Atlantic County residents, but back in Camden County it was closely associated with Magaziner’s Covered Bridge Pharmacy and for a while with the Posh Lingerie and Bra Boutique he and wife Denise still own.
Magaziner, of Cherry Hill, said the story of his statues at the pharmacy had appeared in the media there many times.
“I needed to do something different. Even though the pharmacy was there for 50 years, you couldn’t find the place on busy Route 70,” he said. He knew someone who imported custom-made statues and, perhaps because he’s also a practicing psychologist with a doctorate, figured that would work for his pharmacy. It did — not just because the statues are something of an attraction, with people often getting their picture taken with a favorite, but mainly because if nothing else, they make the location something of an instant landmark.
Dun & Bradstreet estimated annual sales were $1.2 million at Covered Bridge Pharmacy.
Magaziner saw that his new business had an equal need for his signature statues.
“When you tell someone Black Horse Pike, it’s so generic, so you have to come up with something so people can figure out what you’re talking about,” he said.
To the original statues (two Elvises, two Marilyns and the Blues Brothers) Magaziner has added another 14 or so.
Ahead of the holidays, he put Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus on the roof, where they were a big hit until it proved too windy to keep them there, he said.
Inside the store, Magaziner added a VIP Tasting Bar, greatly expanded the inventory and held events such as a Miss New Jersey appearance to give the store the feel of a party, he said.
“I increased the employees from 15 to 35, because I believe that if you increase customer service, you’ll succeed. That’s been my formula for my pharmacies,” he said.
So far, the changes are working very well, he said, with sales increasing 20 percent in September and another 20 percent in October.
Even before the growth at Magaziner’s Canal’s Discount Liquor, the very competitive liquor business in Atlantic County was recovering from a 2007-2008 slump during the severe recession.
From a low of 48 liquor stores with 301 employees in 2008, the industry in Atlantic County rebounded to 55 stores with 347 employees in 2011, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Magaziner said that if the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control didn’t prohibit it, he could easily have another business to add to his Magaziner Properties and liquor store.
“I don’t need another business, but I could have sold the statues 100 times over,” he said. “Every day, people ask to buy or rent statues.”
If they want them badly enough, he said, he’ll put them in touch with the importer. They cost $700 to $2,500, plus shipping.
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