NEW ALBANY — Susan Kerber admits driving down State Street will seem a little weird in the future.
Kerber, who has worked and managed Bridge Liquors for the past 40 years, will soon leave the business she helped grow and expand. The liquor store, as well as the nearby land where the car wash sits, recently sold. The new owners take possession Dec. 19.
"It's bittersweet," she said of selling the family-owned business.
Four generations of the Knable/Schaefer and Kerber family have owned and worked at the liquor store, located at 110 Knable Lane, just off State Street, in New Albany. The current building was built 27 years ago and that is when Kerber took over as manager. It has been remodeled three times, she said, and currently has yearly sales of $2.5 million.
"I am proud of the job we did," she said. "They were in the hole when I took over."
George Patel and his family purchased the business and customers will see little to no change moving forward, he said. Patel also owns the Marathon station in Georgetown and Maxine's Market in Milltown.
"I like stores that have been in business a long time," he said. "They have a loyal customer base."
Kerber said the time was right to sell. She said since she had a buyer and the fact that she will soon be 65, there are other things she would like to do, including travel. She said the large selection of craft beers and wines, as well as good customer service, have been a winning formula for the business' success over the past four decades.
"It's taken a lot of work," she said. "It's clean smelling when you walk in here and we are able to get people in and out very quickly. We have a lot of regulars and we are able to do special orders."
Kerber said the liquor business has seen many changes since she started working at the store 40 years ago. Now, large box stores sell liquor seven days a week, so she depends on good customer service and a wide selection in order to be successful. She said she has really tried to focus on having the largest wine selection in the area.
Patel said his family bought the Georgetown Marathon eight years ago and the former owner still comes by the business regularly. Kerber said she doesn't know if she will be a regular at Bridge Liquors moving forward, but feels good about where it's at as she prepares to leave. She said it will "be weird" not owning the business and coming in as a customer in the future.
"I think we did a good job," she said. "You will always miss it because you put so much work in it."
Patel said customers like to patronize a place "where they know what to expect." He is confident that will continue.
"You want to service a community that appreciates you," he said. "They have a good customer base here."