Back in 1934, the NYS State Liquor Authority issued liquor license number 58 to a business at 427 Court Street. It was the 58th such license handed out after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
The business was called T.Scotto Liquor Store, Inc, and belonged to one of three Scotto cousins (the other two cousins were Buddy Scotto's father, owner of the funeral parlor, and Leo Scotto, the original owner of the wine store at 318 Court Street.)
Today, it is one of the oldest functioning wine and liquor stores still operating at its original location, though its owner and name were changed in 1984, when Philip Friello bought the business from Mr. Scotto. Walk into Carroll Gardens Wines & Liquors, as it is now known, and Mr. Friello is ready to advise you on your choice of wine. Want a bottle of bourbon? He can chose the right one for you as well. It's clear he knows his stuff and that he enjoys interacting with his customers.
Originally from Bay Ridge, Friello married a woman who had grown up on DeGraw Street. After their marriage, they lived on Sackett Street for a while, but then moved to Long Island. Friello commuted back and forth to Carroll Gardens for a few years. In 2000, he moved the family back to Brooklyn. He seems to be happy to be back. "Brooklyn is special. It's close enough to the city, and there is a bit of everything here."
Since Friello has owned Carroll Gardens Wine & Liquors, the neighborhood and the clientele have changed. He has adjusted his business to reflect those chances. Just recently, the interior was renovated "from top-to-bottom and in the middle" with a section of the original tin left in place to pay tribute to the past. "You have to change with the times" Friello says. "Otherwise you become obsolete, a dinosaur. When I first took over, it was more of a 4 litre jug of Gallo or Carlo Rossi kind of thing. Now, its more boutiquey. These days, we carry a vast selection of wines from all over the place, from California to Argentina. And we carry specialty bourbons, gins and vodkas."
One thing hasn't changed though. Throughout all the years he has owned the liquor store, the quality and "the heart" of the people has stayed constant. He remembers all those get-well cards and gift baskets he received from his customers when he had hip replacement surgery. "It makes you feel as though you count" he says, sitting behind his counter. "I want to convey that sense to all my customers."
There is a good chance that the business may stay in the family for another generation. Friello's daughter Alexandra, nephew Anthony and friend Randy are helping to run the store and learning about wines. They seem to like it.
And there is another continuity. Some of his new customers are children of former ones.
And so, lets raise a glass of wine to Friello and hope that his store will be at the same location for the next 77 years.
Carroll Gardens Wines & Liquors
427 Court Street