Rita, Viktor, & Family, Brighton Gourmet & Cellar
When it comes to Viktor and Rita, they know what they are talking about when it comes to their business and customers because of their upbringing with watching their family run and operate a small business. Having been open now for about 7 years, Brighton Gourmet & Cellar has become a standout in Oak Square by giving neighbors an opportunity to learn more about pairing a good wine or beer with gourmet foods and cuisines. A business like Brighton Gourmet & Cellar was made possible by this brother and sister team deciding to take a risk, trust their instincts, and share with a new community their knowledge and expertise that is built into their DNA. It is not only how their business has been received in Brighton but how Rita and her husband, Rami, have been welcomed into the community is what the siblings find most rewarding.
Brighton Gourmet & Cellar has a wide variety of fine wines and craft beers. Be sure to check out their refillable olive oil bottles!
I went out to Brookline to meet with Viktor first, because while Rita and Rami run Brighton Gourmet & Cellar, Viktor and his wife are running their family's first business, Foley’s Liquors. A Brookline staple with its old-timey billboard sign on top, Viktor and Rita’s family have owned the location since 1985. “People still come in and share stories about remembering us as kids when our parents ran the store. There is a photo somewhere of, when Rita was really little, her and our other sister climbing up on top of the fridge for cases. Our parents always had us at the store.” Viktor goes on to tell me about how the idea of opening a second location came about, “We wanted to open a location that allowed us to give someone everything they would need to have a fine meal. We also really wanted to invest in a community rather than go somewhere we knew our business could take off immediately by creating a store that kept people shopping in their neighborhood and also brought people into it.” The two of them decided to take the risk and applied for the license and just wait it out by looking for a location. Little did they know, that the opportunity would present itself in their uncle’s building that he owns on Washington St. Rita explained their start, “Before we opened, this place was a bookstore and the woman who owned it knew that she was going to have to close but she did not have anything planned for when it did. My uncle offered to let her have the last few months in the space go rent-free, so she could plan and save for her next chapter. By the time she had officially closed, was when Viktor and I were ready to open because we were approved for our license.” (That part of the story, their uncle’s generosity to the bookstore owner, gave all three of us chills as Viktor and Rita tell it to me.)
With Viktor and his wife having their hands full with Foley’s, Rita and Rami are the regulars you see behind the counter at Brighton Gourmet & Cellar. Rami at one point in our conversation said, “This business is like our third child.” These owners are so family centric that it has spilled over into the relationships that they have made since opening. “Our son, Fuad, has grown up at this Brighton location, just like I did at Foley's, and thank God for all the families and especially the Y for being so close to the store. We basically live in the neighborhood with the amount of time we spend with the friends we’ve made here or bringing Fuad to a lesson at the YMCA. We have begun to look into moving into Brighton because it already feels so much like home.” A family in particular that Rita and Rami have grown close with is Liz Sullivan’s, former Executive Director to Brighton Main Streets. When I reached out to Liz about doing a story on Rita and Rami the feeling was clearly mutual over how great this family has been to the neighborhood. “Rami and Rita have become part of our extended family! We get together often for playdates, and have watched the parade, and even done the Business District Trick or Treat together.” And Rita added, “Liz sometimes come into the store with William, her son, and the boys will immediately just go straight to the basement to play with Fuad’s toys. Our family’s have become such constants in each others’ lives.”
Pictured (Left to Right) are Rami, Fuad, Rita, and, the newest addition to the family business, Myriam.
I walked away realizing just how much Viktor and Rita make it so family centric in their business model. When they opened, Viktor and Rita admit there was some nerves of how will the business be received, but what was more important to them was welcoming the community into their own family. The two of them make clear that they believe that if you treat your business and everything with it like family, through supporting one another and the community, you can have a successful career. Before I finished speaking with Viktor he said, “We enjoy it so much. We love it so much. We appreciate it so much. And we don’t take any second of it for granted.” Help Brighton Main Streets by considering the Power of Giving Ten.