|Harry Wilson of Methuen, Mass., buys beer Thursday at Stateline Paysaver in Salem.|
New Hampshire storekeepers are monitoring beverage sales now
that Massachusetts has repealed its sales tax on alcohol. PHOTO: COURTESY THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER
Union Leader Correspondent
GREATER DERRY AREA -- Massachusetts residents are beginning to see some local savings as the state’s repeal of its sales tax on alcohol goes into effect this month.
But workers at New Hampshire stores near the state line say there’s still plenty of incentive for people to cross the border for their booze.
“People who come up to New Hampshire come up for more than alcohol and while they’re here, they stop in,” said Steve Dardas, beer and wine manager at Stateline Paysaver in Salem.
Massachusetts’ 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol sold in stores was officially repealed on Jan. 1, after voters approved a measure to eliminate the tax in November. The sales tax on alcohol first took effect in August 2009.Don Lamirande of Lawrence, Mass., said the repeal will not change his behavior. He’s been buying alcohol from Stateline Paysaver in Salem on Route 28 for years, he said.
“I’m still going to buy here because I’ve always bought it here, even before the sales tax. Why would I stop now?” he said Wednesday outside the store.
And Lamirande said that a stop at Stateline is just part of his New Hampshire shopping schedule. When he crosses the state line, it’s also for cigarettes, groceries and clothing, he said.
“Everyone has a routine,” he said. “I don’t think (the repeal) will make an impact on people because they are so used to their routines.”
In Nashua, Cindy Demanche agrees. Demanche has been the store manager at Smok’in Deals for 6 1 ⁄ 2 years. The store sells beer and wine, cigarettes and lottery tickets on Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua, about a mile from the Tewksbury, Mass., border.
“It’s not going to hurt us because we have a lot of customers who come here for other things,” she said. “We have all three vices here.”
But John Scola of Methuen, Mass., said cheaper prices at home might be enough to tip the balance.
“You want to help the little businesses, and I hope it does because the state of Massachusetts is in bad shape,” said Scola outside the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet store in Salem Wednesday. “I like to help local businesses out when I can. When I buy here, it just goes to the state.”
But while Scola said he might now consider buying some alcohol closer to home, he would still cross the state line for big purchases.
“When you spend a lot, it does add up,” he said.
Mike Duclos says that about 75 percent of his customers at Duke’sStateLineStoreinNewton come from Massachusetts looking for the experience of a neighborhood store.
“I have loyal people who come here because I’m a bit off the beaten path,” said Duclos, the store’s owner.
Duclos said he didn’t see any impact on his business when the sales tax on alcohol went into effect in 2009.
“I didn’t see any difference when they actually incorporated the tax (in 2009),” he said. “I’m not worried now.”
Neither is Joe Corriea Sr., who owns The Country Mile in Greenville, one of only a handful of private stores selling liquor in the state.
“We are a destination store,” he said of his 10,000-squarefoot warehousespace.“There’s nobody around me and there’s nothing to come up for here but me. Maybe stores that don’t offer spirits might suffer more than me.”
Corriea said he saw a small “bump” in sales after the Massachusetts sales tax went into effect.
“We had a very slow increase,” he said. “It didn’t go nuts and every week you’d pick up someone here or there. Now it’s the first week after the tax (was repealed) and I haven’t seen much difference either.”
Mark Archambault, owner of Hatch Convenience Store in Hollis, said that while business has been good for the past two years, he worries that any price changes might start to chip away at out-of-state traffic. Seventy-percent of his business comes from Massachusetts buyers, he said.
“It would give one more reason for border customers not to come over,” he said. “... That’s a buck or two that’s going to hurt our competitive edge.”
But taxes aside, Corriea said there’s something about the spirit of New Hampshire border stores that will help them thrive.
“We’re aggressive,” he said. “The proprietor of a border store has a different mentality where everything’s about volume, volume, volume. We are so much more aggressive with (prices) on the border and spirits are still cheaper in New Hampshire than in Massachusetts, even without the sales tax.”