Store Offers Town's Best Stocked Shelves

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Wine and spirits lovers, lift up your glasses and toast the Beverage House, Payson's newest and most expansive liquor store.

"We have an amazing variety of items," said store co-owner, Eli Drakulich. "You can't find this selection anywhere (in Payson)."

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Sommelier Roy Burgold, manager Debra Jerentowski and owner Eli Drakulich offer Beverage House customers comprehensive service and the widest selection of spirits in Arizona.

The idea of the Beverage House -- with 13 locations throughout Arizona -- started between two men sitting next to each other in church in the 1980s.

John Krapranopoulos, Drakulich's business partner, served as a lieutenant colonel in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. After retiring, he received his MBA from the University of Nebraska and pursued a career in the corporate arena.

Drakulich earned a degree in industrial engineering, but soon lost interest.

He yearned to have his own firewater empire, inspired by his parents' Apache Junction liquor store that he managed in the 1970s.

Together, Drakulich and Krapranopoulos built one Beverage House after another all over the Grand Canyon State.

And then in October 2005, Drakulich opened a long awaited store in the Rim Country.

"My partner and I wanted to get a store in Payson for years," Drakulich said. "It was a matter of finding the right location."

The Beverage House opened with a bang.

"This store up here had the best opening in the first six months of any of our other stores," he said.

From the well-known to the exotic, the walls and aisles of the Beverage House are stocked with every kind of alcohol imaginable.

There's the pear liqueur with a whole pear inside the bottle. The blooming fruit actually grows inside the bottle.

Debra Jerentowski, store manager, loves the African cream liqueur made from an elephant's favorite fruit, the marula.

"It's absolutely my favorite," she said. "The rums come from across the Caribbean -- it's real smooth and silky, and it has a fresh, mellow bite."

And the prices are as varied as the selection -- from a $350 bottle of Saint Lucien wine to affordable cans of Budweiser beer.

"People have been trading up," Drakulich said. "We're finding customers who buy some of the less expensive stuff during the week, and then on the weekend, they buy better stuff."

Wine lovers gather in the store for free weekly wine tastings at 4 p.m. Friday evenings.

"This is one of the best things going on in Payson," said tasting frequenter Donna Hansen.

"It's like a party every Friday night," added her husband Rory.

Drakulich said the tastings remove the intimidation and risk from buying wines. Having in-house wine expert, Roy Burgold, available to answer questions also makes the buying process easier.

"Try the wine," Drakulich said. "If you like it, you get a 20 percent discount if you buy it. If you don't like it, you don't have to buy it, and you're learning."

The Beverage House offers nonalcoholic drinks, gourmet condiments and cigars.

The Beverage House is located in the Legacy Home Furnishings shopping mall, 111 E. Highway 260.

For more information, call (928) 474-6300.

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