Flushing store owner prepares to fight back against possible opening of liquor store chain

Photo by Carlotta Mohamed/QNS

Employers at Marpat Wines and Liquors store in Flushing are fearing the worst — the possible shutdown of their business and jobs if Total Wine & More, a fast-growing chain of nearly 200 stores, sets up shop across the street. 

Marpat Wines and Liquors, located at 3112 Farrington St., has been operating in the community for 53 years selling the best selection of wines and liquors from around the world, and owner Frank Mortagua is preparing to fight back against the superstore to keep his business open, he says. 

Photo by Carlotta Mohamed/QNS

“I can’t sleep. This is like a nightmare,” Mortagua said. “It’s an injustice to take my family-owned business, not only mine, but all of the local liquor stores out of business. We try to make a buck … that’s their intention, to take everyone out of business.” 

Mortagua, among others in the community, received a letter on Aug. 19 from entrepreneur, Michelle Trone, who has filed an application to open the wine and spirits store in the College Point area at the space previously occupied by Toys R Us, located at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway, next to Party City. Trone is requesting all signed letters in support of her application to be returned by Sept. 7. 

“I am excited to bring this unique and wonderful experience to Queens,” Trone said in the letter. “As you may know, a Total Wine & More store offers an incredible selection of over 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers, all at the most competitive prices possible.”

“To make shopping convenient, right next to the wine and spirits store, there will also be an incredible beer and food store — offering local and global beers, as well as delicious and unique New York foods and gifts. I am particularly proud we will be offering the largest and best selection of New York-made beers, wines and spirits,” Trone said.  

Known as the “Walmart of liquor” Total Wine & Liquor were denied a liquor license to open a 21,000-square-foot store near White Plains in a decision last December that followed opposition letters from 25 state lawmakers and a three-hour hearing, in which the New York State Liquor Authority ruled that “Westchester is already oversaturated with liquor shops,” the NY Post reported. 

“The stores from Long Island and Westchester there banded together and they fought it. They didn’t get their license, and now they’re coming here,” said Joey Demarco, who has been working at Marpat Wines and Liquors for 16 years. “Them coming here, we’ll be ground zero; we won’t be able to last. I’m sure other stores in Flushing, all other areas such as Corona and Whitestone will feel it. It would not only affect small businesses, but also the sales people for the distributors would be greatly affected by the number of stores that could potentially close.” 

Demarco said they have contacted eight other liquor stores thus far and will have their first meeting in the first week of September. They’re also planning on getting a lawyer. 

“We want to get our message our and protect everyone’s families,” Demarco said. “We’re getting other liquor stores on board — 20 or more in the area are going to fight this. Other business owners have told me they’re scared and nervous. Whatever we need from them, they will support us. We’re scared that they [Total Wine & More] will be successful here.” 

For Nicholas Alma, 25, who is a full-time worker at Marpat Wines and Liquors, this is his only job at the moment, and he is ready “to take it with the punches and roll with them.”

“I’m pretty sad about it, just counting my days,” Alma said. “If I lose this job, it would hurt because it’s going back to square one looking for another job. It’s great for them, but not for us. They’ll probably take over all of Queens.”