By Barbara Wood and Kate Bradshaw | Almanac Staff Writers
"That's devastating news," a customer at Beltramo's Wines & Spirits said Monday on hearing the news that the business, a Menlo Park institution owned and operated by the Beltramo family since 1882, is closing, probably by the end of summer.
John and Daniel Beltramo are grandsons of founder Giovanni Beltramo. One is past 80 years old and the other nearing 80, and the pair will be retiring, the family said. They will be closing the store at 1540 El Camino Real in Menlo Park and selling the property.
"The store will begin an orderly wind-down process," the family statement says, and the owners and employee hope "customers will stop by soon while the selection is widest and say their farewells."
"That's a big disappointment," said another customer on Monday who has bought beer, whiskey and wine at Beltramo's since 1965. "There are other liquor stores, but I've always patronized this place," he said. "Prices are low, service is good, and it's a community fixture."
The closing will affect more than 20 employees. One of them, when asked what he will do when the store closes, replied: "Look for work."
He said Beltramo's employees do many wine tastings and are knowledgeable about the business, which he hopes will be an advantage in his job search.
According to the family, Beltramo's got its start when Giovanni Beltramo emigrated from Asti, Italy, bringing cuttings of Nebbiolo and Barbera grapevines with him. He worked in vineyards near what is now Cupertino for a few years before he began cultivating his own vineyard in Menlo Park.
Giovanni Beltramo started a wholesale and retail wine and spirits business in Menlo Park in 1882. By 1935 Giovanni's son Alexander Beltramo had moved the business to its current location. He operated a cocktail lounge along with the liquor store until 1979, when the cocktail lounge was shut down to make more room for an expanded wine selection, the family says.
"The store was a pioneer in the California wine industry," the statement says, and was also the first to import and introduce many French, Italian and other international wines to its clients.
"We have always been directed by the Beltramo family to bring in the finest merchandise from around the world," operations manager Matt Silsby said.
The store has been led by Alexander's sons, John and Daniel Beltramo, since the mid-1960s. Given their age, "the brothers have deemed it time to retire from the business."
"We are proud of our store's history and honored to have served the community for 134 years," Dan Beltramo said. "We raise a glass in thanks to our friends and customers for supporting us for such a long and memorable ride."
Dan Beltramo, who lives in Atherton, will remain in the area, as will his daughter Diana Beltramo Hewitt, who lives in Menlo Park.
Ms. Beltramo Hewitt said she has worked in Beltramo's for the past five years and has "enjoyed every minute of it." But as the only Beltramo of her generation involved in the business, and with family obligations of her own, she said she was not ready to take over the reins of the business on her own.
The company has had much recent success and introduced a number of innovations such as eBay sales and a phone app, Ms. Beltramo Hewitt said, and they are "so much happier to go out on top like this."
However, she said: "It's time to spend a little more time elsewhere."
Property for sale
The family did consider selling the business, she said. "We pursued a path with a couple of potential buyers" but it was complicated by the fact that the business would have to move since the property is for sale and a buyer has been identified, she said. She declined to provide more information about a property sale.
Asked about competition from big box stores, such as BevMo in Menlo Park and Costco in Redwood City, she said: "There's always competition. That had nothing to do with the closure whatsoever."
She said the family will "certainly miss" its customers and more than 20 employees.
Beltramo's "is not likely to be replaced anytime soon," she said. "It's like a good book. When you close the last page, you're going to miss the characters. We'll take the characters and the people we've encountered along the way with us."