By Jonathan Phelps
---- — WENHAM — The sign outside the Richdale convenience store on Topsfield Road is simple: “Now Selling Beer & Wine.”
Owner Albert Abdelmalak was granted the town’s only beer and wine license in January.
“It is good for the customers and neighborhood,” he said. “They don’t need to drive two miles to get a six-pack of beer or wine.”
Abdelmalak, who came to U.S. from Egypt in 2004, has owned the store at the intersection of Route 97 and Cherry and Maple streets since October 2011.
The store now features a three-door refrigerator for beer in the back and shelves in the middle of the store for wine.
“Some people come in and are surprised,” Abdelmalak said.
“I think it is going to be good for business,” he said. “There is nothing around here.”
Abdelmalak said he has been asking customers what type of beer and wine they want because it is so new for the store. He started selling the beer and wine at the end of last week.
“I live around the corner,” customer Ann Krantz said. “I was thrilled when I found out I didn’t have to drive to North Beverly or Hamilton.”
As part of the license, Abdelmalak is not allowed to have neon advertisements on the outside of the store. The conditions limited signage to one announcement about selling beer and wine.
The town relinquished its “dry” status in 2006 and issued its first liquor license — a pouring license — to the Wenham Tea House. In 2010, the state approved a home rule petition to change the pouring license to a package store license for the restaurant to sell bottles of wine with prepared meals.
The license lapsed when the restaurant’s tenant at the time decided not to renew the lease. The management was taken over by the owner of Henry’s Market in Beverly.
At a Special Town Meeting in February, residents supported the creation of a home rule petition to seek an all-alcohol pouring license for the Wenham Tea House, which freed up the town’s only package store license.
Three businesses had expressed interest in the town’s single retail license for the sale of beer and wine — Grassy Roots, Nazir’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, and Richdale.
Richdale ended up being the only business to apply for it. Abdelmalak said it took about a year and a half to obtain the license.
Abdelmalak said it has been a slow winter for sales and hopes the beer and wine selection will help. He also plans to add a deli soon to serve fresh sandwiches.
“That will help with business,” he said. “Business is hard these days.”
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.