FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) With its current owners set to retire, Cap n’ Cork announced Wednesday it will be selling its 15 stores in the Fort Wayne area to Big Red Liquors. Once the sale is finalized, the stores will continue to operate under the Cap n’ Cork name.
According to a press release from Cap n’ Cork, brothers-in-law Joe Doust and Andy Lebamoff purchased the then eight-store chain from Lebamoff’s father, George, in 1995. Over the past 26 years, the duo has expanded the brand and the chain to 15 retail locations in Fort Wayne and New Haven. The Cap n’ Cork brand and stores, all located in Allen County in Northeast Indiana, will continue to operate autonomously under the combined Cap n’ Cork and Big Red Liquors leadership.
The acquisition is led by Big Red Liquors co-owners Tony Knoble and Justin Collins, along with CEO and President Don Rix. The sale is expected to close in early July.
Big Red Liquors has served Indiana residents for more than 40 years and currently employs more than 450 Hoosiers. When the sale is complete, Big Red Liquors’ combined footprint will grow from 60 to 75 retail locations statewide.
“Big Red Liquors has responsibly been serving Indiana communities since 1972,” said Don Rix, CEO and President of Big Red Liquors. “We consider it a great privilege to hold a liquor license, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We’re incredibly thankful to become a part of Fort Wayne and look forward to continuing the legacy of Cap n’ Cork within the community instilled by the Lebamoff family, along with supporting more than 160 current employees that make up the Cap n’ Cork family.”
The history of Cap n’ Cork
Cap n’ Cork grew from the original family grocery founded in central Fort Wayne in 1911 by the Lebamoff brothers, Argirie and Atanas. In 1925 Argirie purchased a piece of property on Piqua Avenue (now South Clinton Street) and built his own store named Liberty Grocery. Argirie married, and over the next several years, their four children were born in the apartment above the Liberty Grocery location.
With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Argirie began selling beer and wine. One of his sons, George Lebamoff, followed in his father’s footsteps after returning from service in the Korean War in 1953. Working long hours at the Liberty Grocery & Liquor store, George closely watched his father’s work ethic. The same work ethic that he would instill in his children, including his son, Andy. “Don’t stand around, stay busy, wash windows, wash floors, clean the shelves. Talk to the customers, find out what they want. Move and rotate the stock, make it attractive. If you want to get ahead, you’ve got to work hard; then you can play hard.”
Joe Doust began working for George at the Georgetown Square location in 1978, later marrying George’s daughter in 1979.
“The decision to retire wasn’t an easy one,” said co-owner Andy Lebamoff. “We wanted to make sure we found a partner that would retain the integrity of the family business we’ve been building on for the last 110 years. We feel like we’ve found that in Big Red Liquors.”
“Change is always difficult, but we’re excited to capitalize on efficiencies from both organizations and see what the next chapter has in store for Cap n’ Cork in Northeast Indiana,” said Doust. “We’ve built an exceptional team over the years, between our back-office staff and our long-tenured store managers and staff. They are our greatest assets. And now they are our Cap n’ Cork family legacy.”