Duo teamed up to keep family business thriving
One of Shreveport’s long-time, family-owned businesses was at a crossroads.
Jean Cordaro needed someone to manage the liquor store Anthony (Tony), her late husband, had worked so hard to build. After having money and merchandise stolen, she needed more than someone to unlock the door and talk to customers.
She needed someone she could trust. Bubba Cordaro, one of Jean’s sons, was also at a crossroads. After 30 successful years in the car business, the 2008 downturn in the automotive industry caused him to take early retirement.
Mom was in need. Son was available.
They met at the crossroads. “It looked like it was falling on my shoulders for a reason,” Bubba said. “It was like a divine intervention. She needed help. She couldn’t run it. The merchandise was scattered about. There was very little money left. She asked me to come in with the little expertise I had in the car business.”
That was early in 2009. Now, almost nine years later, the shelves are stocked and business is good at Tony’s Beverages on Line Avenue. What began in 1964 continues.
“For any retail business you want to run, you better be prepared to work a lot of hours and not just hire a bunch of people to do it for you,” Bubba said. “I knew, after speaking with my mom, there was no one else. It was me or nobody, or perhaps we were in a position where we may have to end up having to sell the store because we were going backwards.”
Nowadays, Tony’s Beverages is going forward, with a focus on the customer— what the customer wants and how the customer is treated.
“I pride myself on a huge inventory of hard-to-get items,” Bubba said. “I can’t just run with the run-of-the-mill type items and expect to go against big chain people who have the ability to mark it down way low to get you in the store. We have a good, diversified inventory. We pride ourselves on a huge selection of hard-to-get bourbons, scotches, wines and select beers.”
Tony’s Beverages also prides itself on customer service—the backbone of any successful business.
“I greet—and I instill in my people— you better greet everyone that walks in the door and make them feel like they are welcome here and we want them back. Don’t just let them walk around and help themselves and hope to get somebody to buy something that you can make money off of.”
Bubba’s affinity for his customers is something the 66-year-old inherited from his father.
“My Dad could talk with any walk of life, from the lowest to the highest, but they all meant something to him because this was his bread and butter to feed six kids.”
When it comes to running the business, there is nothing Bubba won’t do. On this day, he was carrying a ladder from the back of the store, getting ready to climb high and adjust some of the colorful college banners hanging out front.
But there are some things he doesn’t have to do, thanks to one very special “employee.”
“She does a little bit of paperwork, writes some checks, goes to the bank, keeps the store clean,” Bubba said of his mother, who just turned 90 years old. “She doesn’t have to come, but I’m glad she comes.”
Jean Cordaro works six days a week, eight hours a day—driving from her home in Bossier City.
“When you get on the interstate, time flies!” Jean said with a smile and a laugh, showing no signs of road rage.
“I try to keep a regular schedule like I’m paid by the hour,” Jean said. “If I get here a little later than I usually do, Bubba will say, “OK, I’m going to cut your pay this week!’” As the holiday season approaches, Jean, Bubba and their staff are ready for one of the store’s busiest times of the year—Eggnog Daiquiri season. From now through early January, Tony’s is serving the popular drink—much to the delight of those who have made getting an Eggnog Daiquiri from Tony’s as traditional as a Christmas tree.
“It has become a phenomenon,” Bubba said. “It’s almost something that’s out of control!” “My brother, Mike, invented it by chance,” Bubba said. “He was trying to come up with a drink that was as popular as a Margarita or Vodka Freeze in the summertime. He just played with the different ingredients which might go good with drinks that people drink at Christmas time. He just thought about eggnog and started putting some ingredients together, and that’s how he came up with it.”
No doubt, Tony Cordaro would be proud of his wife and son—helping the business survive—and now thrive. Even though Tony is no longer behind the counter, he is at the store every day—in spirit.
Especially when his widow pays the bills.
“I’m just proud that I sign all of my checks using his name instead of just my name. I use Mrs. Anthony Cordaro because I want to remember him.”