NEW LOCATION: “We want everyone to know we are on Nassau Street now, at the former Landau location. We are encouraged that more and more new customers are finding us, in addition to all our regulars from our days at the Princeton Shopping Center.” Raj Patel, owner of Claridge Wine & Liquor, is happy to greet customers at the store’s new site.
By Jean Stratton
Claridge Wine & Liquor, the popular place to find wine, beer, and spirits, has a new home at 102 Nassau Street.
For many years a mainstay at the Princeton Shopping Center, the store has a long history. Founded by Claire and Benjamin Levine in 1939, it was originally situated on Leigh Avenue. Since the mid-1950s, however, it was located in the Shopping Center.
Current owners — and brothers — Raj and Hemant Patel decided to move to the former location of Landau’s, the longtime Nassau Street clothing store. That site became available after Landau’s closed, and the Patel brothers saw a new opportunity.
“We thought a move to downtown Princeton would not only give us a new setting, but also new business,” explains Raj Patel. “We are getting a lot of new walk-in traffic, and we are also happy that we still have many of our loyal Shopping Center customers.”
Born and brought up in India, Raj Patel came to the U.S. in 1979 at the age of 19. Settling in New Jersey with family members, he, Hemant, and another brother Neil later purchased Plainsboro Wine & Liquor, which they still own today.
In 2002, Raj and Hemant became owners of Claridge in the Shopping Center. Continuing the store’s long-respected legacy, they also expanded both the space and the merchandise.
Many changes have occurred in the liquor industry over the years, notes Patel. The popularity of wine, while still very strong, has also been followed by the return of cocktails and, currently, the tremendous popularity of bourbon. Among wines, rosé has become a big seller at Claridge.
Trends come and go, he adds, and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments is important. “We have a very wide selection of wine, spirits, and beer. Bourbon is definitely the most favored choice in spirits today, and we have an excellent selection, as well as all the other spirits.”
There can also be a seasonal aspect to the popularity of different libations, he notes. Gin and tonic comes to mind as we approach summer, also refreshing white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, and the flavored seltzers (4.5 to 8 percent alcohol), especially White Claw, so highly in demand with younger people. Many different flavors of these seltzers are available.
Beer is a staple for many, and Claridge has a large selection of small craft, microbrewery choices, as well as the more commercial brands.
Wine is the No. 1 seller at the store, and its selection includes wines from all over the world, including very high-end choices. Patel points out that the staff is always ready to advise customers about an appropriate wine to serve with a particular food. Typically, white wine with chicken and fish, and red with beef.
The idea is not to have one flavor (food or wine) overpower the other. If you are serving roast beef, it makes sense to have a full rich red wine.
Sparkling wine goes with everything, he reports, and Champagne is always a favorite. Prosecco is also rapidly becoming a very popular, less expensive alternative.
Sweet wines, such as sauterne, are a nice complement to dessert, and cordials, although not as favored as they once were, can be an especially nice hostess or special occasion gift.
Patel adds that if people are planning a party, the Claridge staff can recommend the proper number of bottles for the number of guests.
“Also, if people have special requests they can ask us, and we will try to accommodate them, and in addition, if customers think we can improve in some way, they can email us. We want to be the best we can be, and keep improving.”
Regarding wine, as an aside, the bottles come in so many attractive shapes and sizes that not only do people save them as souvenirs, but those with a creative bent are transforming groups of bottles into intriguing wind chimes.
Claridge is conveniently arranged for easy accessibility, with products displayed according to category: wine by country and region, white and red, sparkling, etc. Spirits are presented according to type, and beer is in a separate section. There is also a large case of chilled beer and white wine.
The store is known for its wide price range, with libations for every taste and pocketbook. Whether it is a very high end wine or a package of four small bottles for $7.99, there really is something for everyone.
Ongoing sales are always available, and in addition, a 15 percent discount is
offered for purchase of three bottles of non-sale wine. Gift cards are also available.
“We deliver in the area, and cases of wine are popular,” notes Patel, “We recently delivered 60 bottles of one kind of wine and 24 of a different wine to the same customer.”
All the extras, including mixers, bitters, olives, and maraschino cherries are available at the store, and there is also a selection of gift wine bags.
“We have a selection of high end cigars too,” adds Patel. “A nice accompaniment to a glass of brandy or cognac.”
He is very encouraged with Claridge’s new location, and is pleased to see both new and familiar faces.
“Many of the customers have been coming for a long time, and they have become my friends. Now, many people are stopping in to get a bottle of wine to take home for dinner or to a friend’s. We also plan to establish a curbside pick-up area for customers’ convenience.”
“We are very proud of our success over the years, and we look forward to more success in the future. And we are happy we continue to be a family business. My son, Mihir, who has an MBA, is now in the business with us, and that is special for me.
“I am pleased to be in a business that helps people enjoy themselves. They like to have wine with dinner and now cocktails have become popular again. People enjoy having drinks when they socialize. it is my pleasure to make my clients happy.”
Claridge Wine & Liquor is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (609) 924-5700. Email: email@example.com.