Contributed by: Amy Kuras

Party stores in Detroit are more than just places to buy drinks and snacks. In an underserved retail environment, they become the place you pick up poster board and markers when your child tells you at 8 p.m. about a school project due the next morning, where you can send a fax or make a copy, or even pick up a phone charger when you’ve lost yours. In short, they become places that help you out in a jam.

Gus Azar of Beverage One at Grand River and Outer Drive enjoys that special role they play in the community. As a matter of fact, he tries to know every customer by name. “How else can we compete next to Meijer or WalMart?” he says. “We have to make sure we’re on top of our game here.” To that end, Azar has made a lot of changes since he bought the business in 2000. He’s redone the building’s façade, updated landscaping, and re-striped and resurfaced the parking lot. Behind the scenes, he’s updated the storage area, coolers and floors and made everything more energy efficient.

He likes the Grandmont Rosedale community, he says, because it’s a very family-oriented area. If customers have a request, he tries to stock what they want, and periodically will have a customer appreciation day with free hot dogs and snacks. He also donates to churches and helps provide beverages for fundraisers. “Anything anyone asks us for, we can get,” he says.