Fort Worth’s “Booze Brothers” exit the liquor business after 37 years

By scott@360westmagazine.comDecember 22, 2023No Comments

Robert and Mark Chicotsky — Fort Worth’s “Booze Brothers” — sell their Chicotsky’s Liquor & Fine Wine after 37 years

By Scott Nishimura
Photo by Olaf Growald

It’s not hard to get Robert and Mark Chicotsky talking about their 37 years of running a liquor store. But the thing is, the brothers — known affectionately as Fort Worth’s “Booze Brothers” — have seemingly forgotten many more stories than the ones they remember.

The two have finally drained the last drop of their time in the business, selling their Chicotsky’s LIquor & Fine Wine — a Westside party and community fixture since 1986, when they bought it from a cousin — to Hotspot, a Houston retailer of spirits and wine.

The Chicotsky family retained ownership of the Chicotsky’s Shopping Center at 3429 W. 7th St. in the sale of the store. Robert and Mark Chicotsky stuck around through December to help the transition to the new owners and run the numerous parties the store caters with beverages annually during the holidays.

“It’s bittersweet,” Robert Chicotsky said in an interview with his brother. “We love our customers. Many of them have shopped with us for over 30 years. That’s the saddest part. On the other hand, we’re excited about this next chapter in our lives.”

Service has been a hallmark of the business. The brothers allowed certain customers — 50 to 60 individuals, plus corporate ones — to maintain charge accounts. “They’d hold up a bottle of whatever they were buying and make sure we’d see them, and we’d wave them through and send them a bill,” Mark Chicotsky said.

Seldom did a charge customer go bad, the brothers said. Not even the man who killed his wife and stored the remains in a barrel in his yard. He made good on his charge balance before police discovered the body and arrested him. “He came in and paid his bill,” Robert Chicotsky said.

The stories abound. The manager for the band U2, on a tour stop in Fort Worth, came by to pick up a cache of booze for the band. Another customer had put in a substantial order for a party. The Chicotskys delivered it to the home, but the customer called shortly before the party to say the merchandise was nowhere to be found. “We rushed back to the store, pull the party again, and deliver it right before the party started,” Robert Chicotsky said. The customer called later to say they’d found the original delivery.

In another case, a caterer agreed to put on a luncheon for an executive at his home, but lost track of the wine order and called Chicotsky’s first thing the morning of the party.

“I’m at home,” Robert Chicotsky recalls. “It’s 8, 9 a.m. I come to the store and get the wine and bag some ice and get it to the house. That was a crazy caterer that did that.”

The brothers avoided pointing fingers in such cases. “We don’t cause a problem,” Robert Chicotsky said. “We try to solve the problem.”

And that particular situation wasn’t unusual, the brothers said. “So many of the caterers are bad,” Mark Chicotsky, 69, said. “They forget to tell you about a party they’ve had for weeks.”

The new store will be called Hotspot. Its owner and local representative could not be reached for this story. But the Chicotskys said they expect Hotspot to hold longer store hours, put on weekly in-store wine tastings, and maintain the party business. Hotspot also pledged to retain the store’s two employees.

“I think they’re customer-oriented, and they’re willing to special-order, and they want to do the party business,” Robert Chicotsky said. “We feel they’re good operators and they’re going to do very well here.”

The Chicotsky family name in the retail business goes back multiple generations. According to a family history, Morris J. Chicotsky, known as M.J., immigrated to the United States from Poland, arriving during the Galveston Movement in 1913.

M.J. established himself in Corsicana before he decided to launch a career as a grocer and butcher in Fort Worth.

He opened a kosher market in 1923, which made a transition to a grocery store by 1933. The store included a dedicated space for wine and spirits after Prohibition ended, marking the start of the family’s lengthy history in alcoholic beverages.

The family built the Chicotsky Shopping Center in 1950, and it remains a piece of the family’s interests in real estate. Robert and Mark Chicotsky are grandsons of M.J. Chicotsky. Robert Chicotsky said he intends to spend more time with the Chicotsky Real Estate Group at Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty following his exit from the booze business.

The brothers may have to come up with a new Sunday morning routine. The one day a week when the store is closed by state law, they go to breakfast at one of a rotating selection of restaurants, then come into the store and review orders for the coming week. “We’re ready to go on Mondays,” Robert Chicotsky said.

The family had received interest in selling for years, and, introduced to Hotspot through a TCU connection, proceeded with the sale when it became evident that none of their four children — successful in their own endeavors — was interested in carrying on the operation of the store, the brothers said.

The brothers said they expect to carry on with their family foundation’s substantial philanthropic interests in organizations such as the Tarrant Area Food Bank, Presbyterian Night Shelter, Cook Children’s and the Jewel Charity nonprofit that benefits Cook, Junior League of Fort Worth, Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County, The Cliburn, The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center, Joan Katz Cancer Resource Center, TCU, and others.

M.J. Chicotsky’s framed photo hangs in Fort Worth’s Congregation Ahavath Sholom synagogue, where he once served as president. “It remains a symbol of their enduring presence in the community,” the family history says.

“We will continue to give back to the community even though we’re leaving the liquor business,” Robert Chicotsky said.