Thursday, December 28, 2000

Party Source is getting bigger

Store completes expansion in February

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        BELLEVUE — Customers of one of the Tristate's busiest shopping destinations soon will have 3,000 square feet devoted to beer. Three years of waiting for the Party Source store on Riviera Drive to expand will end in February. That's when one of Greater Cincinnati's largest suppliers of food, wines and party favors will complete a $1 million expansion.

        In Greater Cincinnati, the Party Source is to party supply stores what Shaquille O'Neal is to basketball — one of the biggest players in the business. And the store is equally impossible to miss — it looms on the horizon for drivers on northbound Interstate 471 near the Ky. 8 exit.

        At 50,000 square feet, it's the largest building in Bellevue. There's also enough wattage in the lights for just about the rest of the Campbell County riverfront town.

        And that wattage attracts shoppers like moths — with a large volume of Cincinnati shoppers jumping on the bridge to cross the Ohio River, drawn to its huge selection.

        Ken Lewis of Louisville owns the six Party Source stores in Kentucky. He said the Bellevue store, first opened in 1993, did about $25 million in business last year. One of four Louisville stores is the second-highest producer at $9 million. Mr. Lewis said the Florence store did about $5 million.

        “You can carry a much deeper variety of specialty foods and fine wines” at Bellevue, Mr. Lewis said. “You have the traffic and sophistication of clientele.”

        In about two months the store will expand to around 68,000 square feet.

        “We've been needing a larger store for quite some time,” general manager Jon Stiles said. "We've been needing warehouse space. We hit gridlock with very little room for our stockers to move around.”

        Be prepared to bring a couple of platinum cards when you enter.

        For your roast chicken, start with white truffle honey from San Francisco — $6.99 for a 7-ounce jar.

        “It's spread under the skin,” Mr. Stiles said.

        Next comes Beluga caviar from Russia — at $57 an ounce. And if you want something besides A-1 on your T-bone steak, Mr. Stiles suggests Malpighi, a brand of balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, that costs $159.99 for a 3-ounce bottle.

        “You put a couple drops on a steak,” Mr. Stiles said.

        To top off a meal, there's the Remy Martin Louis XII cognac, which costs $1,300 for about a quart. Mr. Stiles said the blended French spirit contains cognacs from 30 to 300 years old.

        Megen Construction of Forest Park is the contractor for the Party Source expansion. Work on the two-story project began sev eral weeks ago and includes enlarging the beer cooler from 1,200 square feet to 3,000, adding a temperature-controlled wine cellar, and more warehouse and office space on the second floor.

        Mr. Lewis said the expansion is the Bellevue store's first, and it comes after a misstep in strategy.

        Mr. Stiles said the company wasn't able to expand the Bellevue location until now because it lost money on a restaurant and retail store near the Interstate 75 exit at 12th Street in Covington.

        That business, BrewWorks, at the site of the old Bavarian brewery, opened in 1997 and closed a year later. It is now the site of the Jillian's entertainment complex.

        Mr. Stiles said the company did not realize customers just wanted to get out of the neighborhood once they exited I-75.

        “We stubbed our toe with our Covington store,” Mr. Stiles said. “We devoted too much time (to) the restaurant part. That was a business we didn't understand.”


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