Regional chain to buy local liquor stores

Elkhart County's predominant chain of liquor stores is in the process of being sold to the largest liquor store chain in northeast Indiana.

Posted on May 16, 2011 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May 16, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.

MIDDLEBURY -- Elkhart County's predominant chain of liquor stores is in the process of being sold to the largest liquor store chain in northeast Indiana.

Chalet Party Shoppe, with eight locations around Elkhart County, is being sold to Belmont Beverage, headquartered in Fort Wayne and with several stores in St. Joseph County.

Gary Gardner, operations manager for Belmont, said negotiations between the respective owners are down to the final details and, while the deal could still go awry, he is hopeful the sale will be completed in less than 60 days.

"It's certainly looking positive," Gardner said, calling the process as an "Indiana takeover" because there have been no hostile or contentious feelings on either side.

Jerry Corliss, owner of Chalet, declined to comment, citing ongoing contract talks.

Terms of the agreement and purchase price were not disclosed. However, Gardner said Chalet customers will not see any big changes under the new owners. Belmont has no intention of rising prices, lowering prices or letting employees go.

Also, the moniker, Chalet Party Shoppe, will likely remain.

"I'm not so sure you're going to see any major difference," Gardner said. "I would just like to think it would be like flipping a switch and just go."

Belmont has stores primarily in Fort Wayne and South Bend but none in Elkhart County. The addition of the Chalet chain will bring Belmont's total to 34 retail outlets, Gardner said.

Corliss launched Chalet in 1980 when he bought a small package liquor store in Middlebury. In the late 1990s, he began buying other stores in Goshen and Elkhart. The final expansion came in 2009 when he purchased and refurbished the former Main Package Liquor store at 2651 S. Main St., and built a new, upscale store on Cassopolis Street.

Along the way, Corliss adhered to his principles of being a responsible businessman. He worked to be a good corporate citizen in Middlebury by closing not later than 10 p.m. and not selling magazines or cigarette papers. Also he moved the Goshen and Elkhart stores from their neighborhoods.

Last year, Corliss pulled the alcoholic energy drinks from stores' shelves after reports of young adults around the country suffering from alcohol poisoning after guzzling the beverage.

Belmont owner, Tom Druley, has a similar business philosophy, Gardner said. The Belmont stores are well-maintained and stock an extensive wine selection. Also, employees emphasize customer service.

"We're excited," Gardner said of the takeover. "We're certainly looking forward to it."

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