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It's somewhat sad to see the demise of Sam's, one of the first wine and liquor superstores that I came across in the Chicago area. My friend, Steve Weiner, was a big proponent of Sam's up until the Rosen family sold controlling interest in the four store chain to Arbor Investments, a private investment group, in 2007. Sam's had been rumored to be in financial trouble for the past year. Earlier this year, Sam's announced the closing of their Highland Park and their South Loop locations, concentrating their efforts on their original store in Lincoln Park and their store in Downers Grove.
Over the past year, I noticed that Sam's seemed to be focusing on cheaper and more obscure wines in their on-line e-mail releases that I received on a nearly daily basis. Steve Weiner told me that this was a conscious effort by the powers-that-be with Sam's to reduce overhead and inflate the profit margin. It obviously didn't work.
Binny's has 22 locations across Chicago (soon to be 24) and features a number of the same wines, liquors and beers that Sam's had. In fact, I will say the selection of eclectic beers at Binny's was more impressive than what I found at the Sam's locations. The only problem was price - Binny's was pretty proud of their stock and it was reflected in their higher prices.
In the long run, Binny's higher prices won out. While you have to tip the hat to a company that has been in business for over 60 years, Binny's suddenly becomes the 800 pound gorilla in regard to beer, wine and liquor in the Chicago area. I don't think there is anyone who can come close to them with their selection. And that generally means higher prices for wine, beer and spirits. I'll shop at a Binny's, but I'll miss the "warm and fuzzy" feeling that I got when I shopped at Sam's.