Gleeson's Liquor Store

Gleeson's Liquor Store worker Lou Kuchler stocks the shelves with varieties of craft beer Friday at the store on Route 9 and Sea Isle Boulevard in Dennis Township. The store competes with bigger chains by offering specials, carrying smaller hard-to-find craft beers and wines and providing competitive prices.

Staff photo by Dale Gerhard

DENNIS TOWNSHIP — At Gleeson’s Liquor Store, customers will find all the regional and national brands of beer, wine and liquor.

But to compete with larger chains and supermarkets that have greater buying power, the family-owned store on Sea Isle Boulevard and Route 9 also stocks a wide selection of craft beers, 2,500 vintages of wine and a variety of vodkas, including a bacon-flavored variety.

“It’s not a huge star because you’re limited to making Bloody Marys. But it’s out there,” general manager Megan Peifer said.

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Peifer, of Upper Township, said the store tries to keep its prices in line with competitors.

“Sometimes we can’t meet what the larger stores do on sheer volume with their buying capacity,” she said. “But we do the best we possibly can. We really try to have fair prices.”

Peifer’s parents, Sea Isle City residents Tom and Mary Jane Gleeson, opened the store in 2010, four years after Dennis Township auctioned its first retail liquor license.

Peifer said the location on Sea Isle Boulevard, a busy state highway, is one of the store’s biggest selling points. It serves shore communities such as Stone Harbor, Strathmere and Sea Isle City, and also mainland customers, many of whom spend the summer at nearby campgrounds.

“We owned the property beforehand. When the liquor license became available, it was a perfect match,” she said.

Her parents demolished two buildings on the corner that used to house one of her father’s contracting business offices and built a two-story, 4,000-square-foot store with storage and office space.

The store is seeing more interests in blended wines instead of single varietals, she said.

“They’re not just drinking a cabernet or a pinot noir,” she said. “The blends are not necessarily better, but they’re different. They offer a slightly sweeter finish.”

In keeping with a trend toward the infantization of vodkas, the store also carries a wide range of brands flavored like Swedish fish, peanut butter and jelly and Froot Loops cereal, she said.

Gleeson’s stocks microbrews from the Tuckahoe Brewing Co., of Upper Township, and Beach Haus, based in Point Pleasant, among others. The store also offers a variety of seasonal beers, which are becoming more popular, she said.

“Seasonal beers come and go so quickly. At the end of August, you’re getting Oktoberfest. Then it’s winter brews and the springtime. It’s amazing how fast they rotate,” she said.

Craft beers are growing in popularity in the United States, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. Domestic sales were up 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by revenue between 2010 and 2011.

Craft beer remains a niche business, accounting for just 5 percent of the beer purchased in the United States.

But Peifer said customers can be fiercely loyal to a brand.

“Microbrews tend to have higher alcohol content, more like Belgian or German beers,” she said. “It’s a growing market because people are becoming more knowledgeable. People are drinking outside the box and experimenting with different beverages.”

Running a liquor store carries more potential liability than the typical retail business, Peifer said. Cape May County is a resort destination that attracts a lot of underage youth who sometimes try to buy alcohol using a fake ID.

“We are very careful about that,” Peifer said. “We actually have ID scanners to scan driver’s licenses. These kids are coming up with some pretty sophisticated fake IDs these days.”

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