Minotti's Wine & Liquor was founded in 1959 by John L. Minotti. The Minotti name once adorned more than 18 stores in the early 1980's when John was in business with his brother. That generation has since retired and John's sons and son in law continue to provide the quality wines and spirits and outstanding service that have become the trademark of the Minotti name. Conveniently located in Bay Village, Westlake, Fairview Park & Rocky River, Ohio they offer an extensive selection of fine wine, liquor and beer, unrivaled customer service and product knowledge, custom gift service and state minimum prices with no sin tax!
History of Minotti's Beverage
Written By Bob Cotleur, The Lorain Journal (1982)
It seemed like such a little thing, really. A $69 girls' bike. But for then school-teacher John Minotti, it had all the frustrations of that abbey at Monte Casino, a short lifetime earlier.
Back then he was an American soldier on an Italian beachhead. The German firepower was awesome as it was directed from the ancient abbey overlooking the town and the beach. But the abbey was inviolate. The monks still lived there, so it couldn't be bombed. Not for the long, rain-swept days that Minotti would always remember.
But this was another time. He was a teacher now and a new shopping center was opening. There were all kinds of sales, all kinds of excitement. A friend went with Minotti to the center opening and bought a bike for his child.
"I wanted to buy one for my kid too, but I couldn't. I couldn't afford it. My salary then was just $3,900 a year," Minotti said.
"That led me to change my life, to move in another direction."
Today in wine stores from Sandusky to Sheffield Lake, Westlake and Rocky River, you can see the answer. There are now 18 Minotti wine and beverage stores. A few have a state liquor franchise and six are outright franchises to others.
What the area lost in a high school teacher who taught business subjects, such as bookkeeping, business English, and shorthand, it gained in a successful business chain.
"And about a year after I started out, I could buy my kid any bike she wanted," the boss said.
Little Italy to Big
Minotti is now 59 years old and a long way from his childhood on Mayfield Road in Cleveland. The area he grew up in was called "Little Italy" and most of the kids there never expected a firsthand look at where their folks came from for a long, long time. They knew and understood the cooking, but not the olive vineyards or the arid, semi-barren hills of a Reggio Calabria where some of the folks came from just because of poor crops and thus a poor life.
"I speak the language fluently," Minotti said. "I had a very good three years over there. I was with the Fifth Army at Anzio and Monte Casino but when they went on up through Germany, I stayed in Italy.
"I have relations in Italy, but I didn't see them during the war. Never got a chance to. But we've been back several times since, to Reggio Calabria and the Adriatic, where they came from, and I love the way they live over there.
"My folks came from this little town with a 25-word name. (He shot off enough names for the starting lineups in a Super Bowl game.) The smaller the town," Minotti grinned, "the longer the name. It doesn't cost much and they sure like the letters."
He was the perfect age for the second world war. A staff sergeant at the end, he arrived in North Africa, took two weeks to get to Oran and then got a boat (troop transport) to the beach at Monte Casino where the abbey overlooked and dominated the scene.
"I walked right in where the guns were poppin'. That was the whole shot. It was a scary day, probably one of the most scary days I've had in my life. People were fallin' all over. We were down at the bottom of a hill in a gully. They were shootin' everything at us and we could not bomb the abbey because of the religious situation.
"We stayed there nine days and it rained nine days. After that the British came and sent tons of bombs over there in bombers. We finally took the abbey.
"I didn't get a scratch, but two guys beside me got hurt and two friends of mine from Steubenville (Ohio) got killed."
Italy turned out to be his war. The action moved north, on into France and Germany, but Minotti stayed in the country of his antecedents. You can imagine that he tried a crooked cheroot or two and a glass of wine while he chatted with the civilians in the southern Italian accent he brought from America.
"I got home in the later part of '45," he said. "I had a lot of points. I just didn't do anything for a while. I had saved a bit because I didn't have anywhere to spend it. So I lived on that for a year and a half, and then decided I should go to school instead of wasting my time, really. I did help my dad out. He had a landscape business going in University Heights and Gates Mills."
Minotti went to Kent State University, got his teaching degree and taught in the high school system in Kent for a while. "I did some substitution work, then taught at Holy Rosary Church on Mayfield Road, a kind of a charitable thing."
During this era he went to a wedding reception he hadn't planned to attend. One Ann Santalucia from the 118th Street and Union Avenue area was there, "But she wasn't dancing. She was refusing everyone. So I kinda made a bet with some guys that she would dance with me before the evening was over. She didn't want to dance and then ‘Goodnight Sweetheart' came on (a sign-off song for bands in that era) and I said to myself, ‘My God, she's gotta dance with me,' so she finally got up and danced.
"As we were dancing, someone recognized her and said ‘Oh you're Ann. You work at the Unemployment Bureau…' and she said, ‘Yeah.' And so then I kept calling her. It took a while. I was ‘a little too short for her,' but I was quite a talker back then. That was in 1952…"
They were married on September 13 of that year, 30 years ago last September. They have three children. Rozann, 28, now Mrs. Robert Swanson of Westlake, met her husband when he was at Notre Dame and she was at St. Mary's, and it turned out they lived right around the corner from each other in Olmsted Falls and North Olmsted without knowing each other at all.
The second, Joseph John Minotti, 26, bought Rocky River Beverage (which he calls "Minotti's") last January and now runs it. Joseph once hit an 8-iron over water on a par 3 at Avondale Golf Course in Avon and it dropped in for a hole-in-one. "But the owners knew me," his father said grinning, "so it came out in the paper that John Minotti got the hole-in-one. People said, ‘Hey John, you're alright," but I said, ‘Hey, it never happened.'"
His third son Peter, 20, is now down in Florida enjoying himself. "He spent a year at Ohio State University getting into business management, but then he quit. He said, ‘Hey dad, I want a store. Give me a business.' Peter has a lust for life. He's good with figures and very knowledgeable with wine. We're now in the process of buying him a place."
Minotti started in business with a partner, Victor Euse, and they opened the first store at the Oakwood Shopping Center in Lorain. "He knew the owners and it was a new center. We called it Oakwood Beverage. That was April 15, 1959, and the partners were me, Victor and my brother Vince. I opened it, but before I did, I worked in one of Victor's other stores for a year, training.
"Then followed the Sheffield Lake Store, North Ridgeville … we just kept adding stores. Ten years from the edge, in 1969, we changed the names to Minotti's. Euse had dropped out in 1960, with a nice piece of change for that first store, and my brother-in-law Peter Santalucia came in.
"Now it's a family-held corporation and I'm the president. We got one partnership called ‘Ross' but everything else is the corporation.
"Me, I got an office, but I like to get out into the stores and work them for a couple of hours. This week I'm in North Ridgeville, last week I was in Sheffield Lake. I like to look around, set up the stores the way I like them.
"I was recently reading a book called ‘Family Business.' I don't feel it in myself that I want to retire, that I really want to relax the reins yet. I like this business and I still have many years ahead of me.
"I like turning the key in the door. It's a challenge." Life isn't all work for him. He also likes his golf. He produces an annual golf outing at Bob-O-Link for his employees and friends which is now in its seventh year.
He once belonged to Avon Oaks Country Club, "But my family's not oriented to country clubs, so I got out of it. And we also like to travel. We've been to Germany and Holland as well as Italy."
And you can see the same premise, the same philosophy he uses in golf and travel that he uses in business. "You've got to have confidence, be a very confident individual to begin with. Any store I opened just seemed to turn around and make money. Maybe the timing was right to go along with the philosophy.
"But my philosophy has always been to treat everybody like we're going to lose them."
And therefore he doesn't lose them.