In the back of Franco's Wine Merchants on Elm Street, a framed package store permit issued in 1935 hangs on the wall in a place of honor above Rick and Carl Franco's desks. Though the permit is more than 70 years old, it is actually the second permit granted by the state of Connecticut to Carl and Rick's uncle, Albert Franco. Albert Franco got the first when prohibition was repealed Dec. 5, 1933, making the store one of the oldest package stores in the state.
Nearly 77 years later, the business is run by Carl and Rick, who have their uncle's knack for selling wine and liquor. Rick attributes the store's success to instinct and attention to their customers' needs. "People call it being your own boss, but you really aren't your own boss," he said. "The consumer is your boss, and you have an obligation to your consumer."
At Franco's, neighbors often stop by on their way home for dinner, tell Rick what they're serving and ask for recommendations. He said he is careful to remember what they like so he can help them the next time.
This connection with their customers is one reason why Carl and Rick like the store's location. "It's nice being intertwined with the fabric of New Canaan," said Carl, who moved away to Boston until 1992, when, he said, "it was just time to move home."
Though Uncle Albert refused to stock anything but French wines in the store, Carl and Rick offer a wide selection, sometimes visiting places such as the Burgundy region of France to select merchandise. "It's a nice excuse to travel," Rick said. "The only way you can learn about wine is by pulling the cork and tasting it."