Many couples who’ve clinked glasses of wine at weddings and romantic dinners, party guests raising their glasses for champagne toasts on New Year’s Eve and friends catching up with stories and laughs over a few beers during the past 50 years bought their spirits from GlenRo Spirit Shoppe in Monroe. This year the liquor store at 487 Monroe Turnpike is celebrating its landmark anniversary.
Bob Huggler first opened GlenRo Spirit Shoppe, which is named after his sons Glen and Robert, in the early 1970s. Since then, it changed hands twice, both times being bought by former employees. Roy Nealon took over the business in 1992 and sold it to its current owner, Larry Cass, who runs the store with his wife, Stormey.
“I think we stuck with the basics,” Cass said, “great selection, great pricing and great service. That’s what kept us going.”
Nealon, who owned the store during its expansion in 1993, when 111 Elite Firearms moved to the other end of the brick building at Comaro Shopping Center and GlenRo took up two storefronts, attended a ribbon cutting celebrating GlenRo Spirit Shoppe’s anniversary Tuesday evening.
“Like Bob always taught me, location is important,” he said of the store’s longevity. “This is a great location with a great staff and inventory. This is one of the largest liquor stores in the state. It has everything and servicing your customers is key.”
Cass, an alum of Masuk High School’s Class of 1987, said, “it’s great to see the regulars. We’re on a first name basis with a lot of people in town. It’s just amazing to see the camaraderie and have the pulse of the town.”
Since buying GlenRo Spirit Shoppe, Cass added locations in Huntington Center, at 159 Main St. in Seymour, and at 110 Commerce Drive in Shelton.
A ribbon cutting
The Monroe Chamber of Commerce arranged the ribbon cutting, which was attended by Chamber President Ray Giovanni, First Selectman Terry Rooney and William Holsworth, who is the town’s director of community and economic development.
Rooney wielded the giant pair of scissors to cut the ribbon in front of the store.
“I’m just very happy to be here today celebrating the 50th anniversary of GlenRo Spirit Shoppe,” Rooney said. “Roy Nealon, the old owner, was a pillar of the community, an honorable member of the community who passed it on to Larry Cass, who has always been extremely generous to the citizens and the charitable organizations in Monroe. It is not a surprise to me they have been a success. I consider GlenRo a staple in this town and wish them many years of success for the foreseeable future.”
“Larry has been an institution in our town, who’s done wonderful work for the community and the civic organizations that he supports,” Giovanni said. “His employees bring a sense of community by knowing the names of existing customers who visit weekly, which is important to making a great business model.”
Cass praised his staff, including store managers Pat Kennedy, Michele Plude, Ryan Blanchette, Dave Sitar and Steve Hackett.
“It’s great having them as my problem solvers, especially with the current economic climate,” Cass said. “We’ve been very lucky.”
Among the organizations GlenRo Spirit Shoppe has supported over the years are the Masuk All-Sports Booster Club, the Fighting Angels, the Monroe Rotary Club, Project Warmth, St. Peter’s Grace Episcopal Church and Monroe Congregational Church, according to Cass.
“We sponsor about 20 golf tournaments a year,” he added.
Nealon, a Masuk graduate of 1978, earned an engineering degree from the Air Force Academy in 1984, before being hired by GlenRo Spirit Shoppe while looking for a full-time engineering job.
“Jokingly, I started here part-time, 44 hours a week,” he said with a smile, “and when I did start my job, I still worked here weekends and holidays. I quit my job when Bob offered to sell me the store and train me in 1985.”
Nealon bought the store in 1992 and owned it for 18 years.
Cass, whose mother taught at Chalk Hill Middle School and father was a Monroe volunteer firefighter, worked at GlenRo in his late teens, stocking shelves and changing prices. “We used to handwrite the prices on every bottle,” he recalled.
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