Pop’s Wine & Spirits has been sold after more than 70 years as a cornerstone business in Island Park.
Longtime owner Nick Poulos retired from the daily grind of selling bottles and serving customers on Nov. 1, selling the establishment, at 256 Long Beach Road, to a new proprietor named Chu Lin.
“Nick and his family have been a fixture of the community for approximately 70 years,” Island Park Chamber of Commerce President Mike Scully said. “Their support to the Island Park community has been second to none. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Poulos said the decision to retire came because of health issues and the increasingly competitive climate in the wine and spirits industry. “It’s strange,” he said. “I’m a certified workaholic, so it’s a little bit of an adjustment going from full throttle to idle.”
Poulos’s father, Peter, opened Pop’s in 1944. Peter was the son of a Greek immigrant, and the store’s name was derived from people affectionately calling his father “Pops” when he came to the United States.
After he graduated from engineering school in 1976, Poulos continued his family’s legacy by taking over the store, which specializes in fine wines. Under his guidance, Pop’s thrived in Island Park for decades, and has drawn customers from across the South Shore.
The corner store has undergone six expansions — most recently in 2010 — and now generates 60 times more revenue than it did during its first year in business. Poulos said he is proud of the shop gaining national recognition and overcoming adversity, which included recovering from flood damage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Poulos started shipping wine and liquor to customers across the country through the store’s website before many other chains did. He also held a semi-annual sale, which marked down wine 30 percent from New Year’s to Presidents Day. Poulos said that one of his goals was to give people a reason to come to Island Park by offering a wide array of wines and liquors.
The store has its original tile floor, and walls and shelves stocked with dozens of vodka varieties. There’s also an aisle for scotch, bourbon and whiskey and another for gin, tequila and rum. A neon sign directs customers to a popular shopper spot: Pop’s Fine Wine Room. Pop’s offered more than 6,000 wines from around the world, ranging from inexpensive brands to varieties worth thousands of dollars.
The shop’s upstairs was open only to employees and housed boxes of wine and liquor on floor-to-ceiling shelves. A conveyor belt carried inventory into the makeshift warehouse, where it restocked the store or was sent to online customers. The first floor of the shop measures about 11,000 square feet, and the upstairs is about 5,000 square feet.
On Oct. 17, Poulos received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Island Park Chamber of Commerce in recognition of more than 70 years in the business community.
“I’m very, very humbled to be recognized by my peers,” Poulos said when he accepted the award. “. . . I perhaps wasn’t as involved in the community as I should have been. It’s a great little town.”
When he was honored, Poulos praised his staff for helping him achieve the accolade. “They have been instrumental in our growth,” he said. “They share in this achievement.”
Lin will retain the shop’s name and employees, Poulos said. Pop’s employed 28 part- and full-time staff members, three who spent 25 years with the establishment. Lin was unavailable to speak with a Herald reporter.
Poulos said the new owner and his longtime employees would continue to be an asset to the community. Reflecting on his time spent at the shop, Poulos said he had many great memories.
“I always enjoyed the business,” he said. “It’s the kind of job where you don’t grunt that you have to go to work; you look forward to going in.”
Ben Strack and Mike Smollins contributed to this story.