Tuesday July 24, 2012

LENOX -- It's no family feud -- far from it. It's simply a matter of paving the way for the next generation in a long-established group of Berkshire entrepreneurs.

After 33 years as part of a dynasty established by family patriarch Nabih Nejaime to operate a group of package stores in South County, 55-year-old Jim Nejaime has branched out on his own, acquiring sole proprietorship of the Pittsfield Road establishment opened 25 years ago as one of three Ne jaime's Wine Cellars.

He has rebranded the business as Spirited and embarked on an extensive modernization plan, including a major renovation slated for next winter and a higher profile on social media.

During a recent conversation, Nejaime, a Torrington, Conn.

, native who moved to Stock bridge with his family when he was 7, recalled how he and his brother Joe set up shop in 1979, taking over their father's liquor store on Elm Street in Stockbridge.

The brothers remained partners there as well as at the downtown Lenox branch and the 444 Pittsfield Road location at the busy intersection with Holmes Road. Jim Nejaime has spent the past decade managing that site.

As he explained the recent shift: "We decided that with grown children, the potential of them coming in, and the opportunity in the industry as laws have changed to grow additional businesses, a complete separation of the two businesses would give us the freedom to have kids come in, grow if we want and do things we might not be as free to do if we kept them together."

Joe Nejaime continues to own and operate the downtown Lenox and Stockbridge sites, with a new Great Barrington location in the works.

The unique, now-trademarked Spirited moniker was developed by Jim Nejaime as a joint effort with Kevin Sprague's Studio Two marketing operation in Lenox.

Nejaime emphasized that his dozen full-time employees, with an average tenure of 20 years, remain on board, but more events such as daily mid-afternoon wine tastings are being planned.

His store will remain open during the major renovation planned for next January and February, which will expand the area devoted to food sales, especially cheeses. No cost estimates have been determined yet, Nejaime said.

"It'll all be in keeping with the new name, with improved lighting, decor, ease of flow," he said. "Just as with the name, it's fun to reinvent the space."

The Pittsfield Road location caters primarily to local residents, but some distant customers benefit from the store's delivery service.

Spirited's new social network marketing efforts are "incredibly important," said staffer Heather Troiano, 25. "For my generation, that's all we look at. We get tweeted, Face booked, everything, all the time. We have so much fun."

The decision by the two brothers to go their separate ways, Nejaime explained, is to ensure that "there never will be any family rift. Family stays family and business stays separate."

Expanded wine departments at the nearby, dramatically renovated Guido's Marketplace and the new Price Chopper represent a chance to draw more shoppers to the area from outlying areas, including Columbia County, N.Y., Nejaime added. He stressed that personalized service to his customers remains central to his strategy.

"It's an opportunity to make ourselves better than a store that isn't as focused on what we do," he said, noting that his business volume remains on an upward trajectory, despite the recession and new competition.

The store's phone is (413) 448-2274. Online, it can be reached at www.spirited-wi
nes.com or facebook.com/
spiritedwines. A Twitter feed is in development.

To reach Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto