If Chalet Premier Doesn’t Have It, Forget about It

NORTH LIMA, Ohio — North Lima might seem a bit out of the way just to buy alcohol and tobacco.

Regardless, since the D’Amico and Potter families bought Chalet Premier 15 years ago, they have transformed the store at 10000 Market St. into a destination where connoisseurs and aficionados of beers, wines, spirits and fine cigars can find nearly anything their palates desire.

“We’ve expanded our selections,” says co-owner Bill D’Amico. “We’re getting people from all over. We’re seeing a lot more from western Pennsylvania.”

“We’ve maximized the amount of product we can get in the store,” adds co-owner John Potter.

Chalet Premier also offers the brands easily found elsewhere. But part of its appeal, says Potter, is having on hand what’s hard to find elsewhere in the Mahoning Valley – if it can be found at all.

Take the champagne Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) recommends to German Army Major Heinrich Strasser in “Casablanca.” Strasser has just entered Rick’s Café Americain and orders champagne and a tin of caviar. Blaine recommends Veuve Cliquot ’26.

Potter takes a dark bottle of a more recent vintage of Veuve Cliquot brut from the shelf to show Premier Chalet offers it.

The reputation of Chalet Premier is such that the executive director of the Covelli Centre, Eric Ryan, recommended it to country singer Brad Paisley when he played Youngstown.

“He doesn’t drink but he loves to tend bar,” Potter says of Paisley. “He bought a few specialty items.”

And the reputation is such that each week D’Amico meets with brides’ families to furnish the beverages at the women’s weddings. The average is 10 a week and he excused himself from the interview to meet with a bride and her mother.

“Our customers have come to trust our judgment,” Potter says.

To D’Amico and Potter, customer service is more than paying lip service to the phrase. “If you’re buying more than a bottle or a six-pack or 12-pack, we’ll carry it out to your car,” D’Amico says. “Anything more than one package to carry.”

It’s also allowing customers to mix and match brands and varieties of beer they’re curious about and have haven’t tried. At the bottom of several craft beer displays are cartons that hold six bottles. For about $10, a customer can fill one and sample each at home.

And Chalet holds samplings fairly regularly. “A supplier interested in featuring a new product asks us to schedule a sampling,” D’Amico says. “We’ll schedule one on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a great way to sell something.”

As for what’s available in their store that has seen space narrow between the aisles, Chalet Premier carries 1,200 varieties of wine, 600 brands of beer, and more than 1,000 brands of spirits moderately priced to bottles priced at more than $200.

The bottles of vodka, for example, come in a rainbow of flavors – everything from celery and cucumber to melon and raspberry – as well as basic. Distillers have taken to adding honey to Irish whiskey as well as bourbon.

Bourbon is the fastest-growing segment of the whiskey market, Potter says.

Blended Scotches and Irish whiskey sit next to single-malt Scotch and Irish whiskey. And whiskeys aged up to 16 years sit on the top shelves.

The multitude of wines comes from around the world and every continent except Antarctica. It seems that every state has at least one winery and Ohio’s are well represented.

“We buy from [distributors in] Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Bowling Green” as well as nearby, “ Potter says. “Often, we’re the only outlet in this market where you can get [a brand].”

If a customer wants a beverage not in Chalet, “If it’s authorized in the state of Ohio, we’ll get it,” D’Amico promises. He’s standing in the room where he, his wife, Joyce, and Potter write, place and track their orders.

Rarely does it take longer than two weeks to fill a special order, Potter says.

Since Chalet installed a humidor that allows it to offer a much greater selection of cigars, demand has risen. “They’re getting more popular now that we can properly store them,” Potter relates.

Far more men than women buy the cigars and bourbon seems to be the beverage of preference to accompany that cigar. “Cigars are on the upswing but cigarettes are in decline,” Potter says.

With the hundreds – if not thousands – of brands and flavors of beer, wine and spirits, some die in infancy, never or rarely picked up from store shelves, while other endure. So making room for new brands and twists on old brands calls for judgment, D’Amico and Potter say.

Seasonal beers – Christmas beers, late-summer beers flavored with pumpkin, bock beers in spring – come and return. Women increasingly are buying such beers, D’Amico says, unlike 10 years ago.

Some beers are promoted as served with a slice of orange, lemon or lime. So Chalet sells these citrus fruits, displaying a row of each at the front of the beer coolers.

Pictured: Chalet Premier co-owners Bill D’Amico and John Potter have spent the past 15 years expanding their store’s selection.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.