Little on the outside, big on the inside
Schuber Liquor Store is a Park Avenue institution
Schuber Liquor Store is unique in Rochester; it has been in the same family and in the same desirable city location since October 1945. I set out to interview third-generation owner Greg Schuber about his business on Park Avenue near Oxford Street and ended up at a pizza party with Greg and his wife, all four of their children, a daughter’s boyfriend, and a son’s girlfriend in one of the apartments in the old home that also houses the store. The apartment just happens to feature a well-stocked, built-in bar. Schuber offspring and friends occupy the building’s three apartments.
(585): What led to your grandfather opening a liquor store on Park Avenue?
Greg: My grandfather Edwin Schuber was an engineer—he worked for Haloid, which was Xerox back in the old days. He was a stubborn guy, and he was never good at taking orders. He ended up quitting, and the first thing he did was to buy a diner—like the Highland Diner—one of those. It was downtown somewhere. But that didn’t go great, either. He was thinking about a liquor store, and he had two locations to choose from. One was over in the Bull’s Head area near St. Mary’s Hospital, and the other was here. We’re fortunate that he chose Park Ave. My dad, Ron, was there to put the first bottles on the shelves. Then my dad went to college to be a phys ed teacher. When my grampa passed away in ’65, my dad took it over. After college, I worked at a couple of sporting goods stores. I decided those weren’t really doing it for me, so I asked my dad one night, “What if I come work for you?”
He said, “Well, you know it’s a whole different ball game, and it’s just me and you, and there aren’t many other coworkers.”
I said, “I’ll give it a try.” That was in 1978. I helped him out a couple years before that during the summers when I was in college, so I’ve been here over forty years.
Donna: Greg’s father rented just the store, and then he bought the building.
(585): Have you seen any other liquor stores on Park Avenue with this kind of longevity?
Donna: When I first met Greg, there were two more liquor stores—one down by Hogan’s Hideaway and one in the plaza near Berkeley Street.
Greg: The one near Hogan’s was a little smaller than our store. It was just a tiny little place. They were in business for quite a while, but they went out of business a long time ago—like thirty-five years ago. Several stores have come in and out over the past ten years.
Cory: There was one on East and Alexander. They were only there for a few months.
Tyler: It’s a hard business to start up. There’s a lot of overhead.
Greg: We’re really lucky; any of our kids could probably run a liquor store as well as most people because they’ve been around it, grew up in it. Some salesmen have said they don’t know of any liquor store in Monroe County that has stayed in the same family name, but that’s just them guessing. I don’t know if that’s true.
(585): Do you tailor what you carry to the neighborhood?
Greg: A hundred percent. If someone walks in looking for something, I’m more than happy to do my best to find it and get it for them no matter what it is—inexpensive, expensive—it doesn’t matter. That’s one thing my dad always used to talk to me about when I was a kid working in the store. He wanted it to be like an old-time hardware store where somebody walks in looking for something, and there are lots of different choices—from inexpensive stuff to expensive stuff and a lot in between. That was always something he wanted, and I’ve carried on that tradition: almost anybody can walk in and find something they’ll like.
(585): Is it mostly foot traffic?
Greg: Yes. If we had four or five or six parking spots we could do an even better business, but we try to take care of the neighborhood. I try to have a feel of what the neighborhood likes and wants and will enjoy. It can’t be what I like and want; it has to be what they like and want. But when somebody walks in the door, you really have no idea what they’re going to buy. Which is cool. Which is what I love about being here.
Donna: We’ve gotten a lot of comments on Facebook and in the store about how it is a family business. They’ll say, “You can tell it’s a family as soon as you walk in the place.” That’s because our kids come in and help out or just say “hi.”
Cory: It’s a warm place to be; it’s fun and comfortable, and that’s how we’ve all kept it.
Everyone in the neighborhood loves how Mom changes the window display with every season and every holiday.
Donna: We keep the door open a lot, and we welcome dogs and strollers. People bring their kids in with strollers. We always have candy on the counter for whoever needs some. People come in and say, “I just need a candy.” We have dogs that know us, and they try to come in. We know all the dogs’ names. People love to bring their pets in and know they’re welcome. We keep dog treats behind the counter.
(585): There must be a lot of memories in this building.
Ally: It’s like a second home for all of us. I know it’s kind of weird, but we’ve all spent so much time here—helping with customers or just hanging out.
Donna: We lived in the apartment upstairs when we first got married and until we bought our house in Webster. And that’s the apartment that Cory first lived in, and that Tyler lives in now.
Greg: Yes, there are. It’s been fun. There’s a picture of me when I was a little kid sitting on the steps where our furnace is now, and that was the end of the store—just that front area.
“Little on the outside, big on the inside,” is more than just a description of Doctor Who’s TARDIS or a sign in a liquor store window. For the Schuber family, it’s a way of life.
(585): I’d like each of you to tell me a little bit about yourself.
Donna: I’m Greg’s wife, and these four are our children. I met Greg on a softball field and thought he was kind of cute. I was twenty-four, and he was twenty-eight. We’ve been together pretty much ever since. I ran a whole company with three shifts under me, and then I got pregnant with Cory on my honeymoon, and they fired me. So I became a stay-at-home mom. Now that the kids are older, I’ve come back to the store, and I work with Greg on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s fun.
Makensie: I’m twenty-three and the youngest. I went to the College at Brockport, like the rest. I work full time at an accounting firm.
Tyler: I’m twenty-eight. Right now I’m working for Macarollin’. Whenever Dad needed help, one of us would drive in from Brockport so he wasn’t alone on Friday and Saturday nights.
Ally: I am the first girl, the third child. I teach physical education, and I coach. I’ve helped out since I was sixteen, like everybody else. It’s nice to work with your family and be around them. We don’t have parking, so we all help out switching Dad’s car back and forth so he doesn’t get a ticket for being on the wrong side. If a salesman has a wine he thinks we’d like, he’ll text us so we can run down. That’s kind of cool.
Cory: I am the oldest. Number one. I am currently a mail carrier in the city of Rochester. During the Park Ave Fest and on holidays and weekends, we four help out at the store as needed.
Mike Nulton: I’m Ally’s boyfriend. It’s nice living here and stopping by the store to help Greg out with whatever he needs. I’m an electrician, so there always seems to be something.
Liz Candeias: I’m Cory’s girlfriend. I love living above the liquor store. It’s really handy. I feel safe here, too. There is always someone I meet who knows Schuber’s Liquor on Park Ave—that’s the best part.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Schuber Liquor Store
373 Park Ave., Rochester
On Facebook: Schuber Liquor
Phyllis Mangefrida is a longtime resident, with her husband and two sons, of the Park Avenue neighborhood—within walking distance of Schuber Liquor Store.