Liquor store moving down the highway

Published 10:10 pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / The Newman brothers intend to open up shop this November at 1348 N Highway 51in Brookhaven, approximately 10 miles south of their current liquor store in Wesson.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / The Newman brothers intend to open up shop this November at 1348 N Highway 51in Brookhaven, approximately 10 miles south of their current liquor store in Wesson.

One of just two liquor stores in Wesson, The Wesson Package Store, owned by Bennie and Nelson Newman, will be closing soon and moving south to Brookhaven.

The store’s relocation comes as a result of Brookhaven’s new liquor ordinance, passed Oct. 1 by the Board of Aldermen in the wake of the June election legalizing liquor sales in the city.

Bennie Newman

Bennie Newman

Nelson Newman

Nelson Newman

For years, the 10-mile stretch of Highway 51 between Brookhaven and Wesson has served as a liquor corridor of sorts. Wesson is the town furthest south in Copiah County; therefore, the small town’s wet status has helped fuel the Wesson economy for years – but with a large helping of Brookhaven dollars.

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Originally opened in 1970 by their father, Charles Newman, Bennie Newman said the store in Wesson brings in close to $2 million a year in revenue, before markup.

“That might sound like a lot,” Newman says, “but we don’t mark up our liquor prices as much as many of the other liquor stores in the area.”

While Bennie Newman didn’t put a particular percentage on it, he knows that much of his customer base has come to Wesson from counties outside of Copiah.

“By far, most of our business comes from Lincoln and Lawrence County,” Newman said. This is easily determined, since driver’s license and state ID cards provide one’s residence when they are asked to produce identification at the Wesson Package Store.

While Newman says his store on Highway 51 North in Brookhaven will likely open in November, at least three other liquor stores also are slated to open in the city in the near future, according to legal notices in The Daily Leader.

One of these will be a store at 722 South First St., operated by Jasbir Singh. Harvinder Kumar, who owns the A1 Stop at 701 Highway 51 N, will open a liquor store adjacent to the convenience store, according to his lawyer, Bobby Moak.

State statute, drafted by the Alcohol and Beverage Control Board of Mississippi Department of Revenue, mandates that store operators can only operate one liquor store at a time. While this prevents Newman from operating a store in Wesson and a store in Brookhaven, it has its benefits, according to Bennie Newman.

“The state law is actually a good thing for small business owners. It prevents us from operating two stores, however, it also prevents larger businesses … from monopolizing the liquor industry and owning every liquor store in the county,” Bennie Newman said.

This is just one of the reasons why the Newmans are moving to Brookhaven, rather than keeping the Wesson store open simultaneously. Another factor is that Brookhaven’s population is 12,513 according to 2010 census data.

According to the same data, Wesson’s population is 1,925. Statistically speaking, this means the new store in Brookhaven can likely expect to see an increase in business.

Nevertheless, the Newmans have mixed thoughts about the move. There’s a certain bit of nostalgia over the Wesson shop, they say, since it has been in its current Wesson location for 43 years.

Bennie Newman says he is looking forward to coming to Brookhaven but will find it difficult to move away from Wesson, where he has developed close ties to the local community. The Newmans are hopeful that they will see many of the same customers in Brookhaven.

“We anticipate that we will see many of the same customers. After all, it’s only about eight miles away from Wesson,” Bennie Newman said.

While Brookhaven’s future with legal liquor sales remains to be seen, the city of Corinth, located on the Mississippi-Tennessee border in Alcorn County, serves as a model for what may happen in Brookhaven with the liquor ordinance, according to city officials.

At a previous board of aldermen’s meeting, City Attorney Joe Fernald said he used the Corinth liquor ordinance as a key model for drafting Brookhaven’s liquor ordinance. Brookhaven follows the same path as Corinth on the liquor issue, only a few months behind that city concerning the decision to allow liquor sales.

“It’s difficult to say really. We are hopeful that the new ordinance will ultimately bring in extra revenue for the city,” Fernald said.

Proponents of liquor legalization have suggested the city could see new restaurants coming to town, since liquor and wine sales can increase a restaurant’s overall profit margins.

A potential surge in crime, owing itself to the addition of liquor sales in the city, also is on the mind of much of the community, and Bobby Bell as well, the Brookhaven chief of police.

Bell, too, has looked to Corinth for answers.

“I have talked to the chief of police in Corinth,” Bell said at a recent Neighborhood Watch meeting. “He has stated that there hasn’t been a spike in crime due to that city’s new liquor laws. I am hopeful we experience the same effects,” Bell said.

The population of Corinth is just over 14,573, which is 2,063 more persons than Brookhaven. It is approximately the populations of Wesson and Brookhaven put together.

The citizens of Brookhaven made the decision to allow the sale of liquor in the city in a referendum in June of this year. Since then, city aldermen have moved to outline the particular provisions that would accommodate the new sales.

The Newmans’ new store will open at 1348 Highway 51 N., adjacent to Pete’s Interiors. The liquor storeowners expect to have everything moved and ready to open by Nov. 19 at the latest, said Nelson Newman.