Two decades ago, when Steve Weinstein used to buy his craft beer at Pino’s, he never once imagined that he would someday own the place. But a few years ago, after selling a successful warehouse and shipping company, he had some time on his hands. One night, over a bottle of wine with his wife Siobhan and some friends, the subject of the store was raised. Longtime owner Brian Taxman was interested in selling and the Highland Park couple saw an opportunity.
Steve and Siobhan actually both hail from River Vale, NJ, about an hour north of Highland Park. Their parents were good friends and they lived only a few blocks apart when they were kids, but a six-year age difference kept them from being close. Ironically, what brought them together five years ago was Facebook, and they’ve been a couple ever since, getting married in 2011. Siobhan’s background in event coordination, distribution, and marketing, coupled with Steve’s nuts-and-bolts knowledge of inventory and product, meant that they had both the background and the skill-set necessary to buy, re-imagine, and run the store as proprietors.
After purchasing the store, the couple began converting some of Pino’s unused potential. They lengthened store hours, rearranged wine racks, and hosted a series of beer, wine, and liquor tastings. According to Siobhan, though “the biggest investment was time” along with “elbow grease and perseverance.” The centerpiece of the conversion, the addition of Pino’s Lounge, took a little more time. In order to create a neighborhood tavern, they had to buy a liquor license and install couches, tables, booths, and outdoor seating, but most of all wait, for the permits. The wait was about a year, but it was worthwhile. Immediately after the Lounge opened, North Fourth Avenue came alive with Highland Parkers enjoying a summer drink or two outside with their friends and neighbors.
While Steve and Siobhan continue to develop plans for further improvements to Pino’s, there already have been a lot of changes bringing very favorable response from the public. Weekends and night games in the fall mean football on the big screen, featuring Rutgers, NCAA, and the NFL Sunday Ticket, and since they don’t have a kitchen or food license, they encourage people to bring their favorite tailgating items to the party. Tuesday nights is trivia at 8PM with prizes for 1st place, best team name, and 3rd to last place. They also host private functions by request and participate in Main Street events for small businesses, holidays, charity drives, and much more. However, one of their most popular happenings have been block parties and concerts, like the Recent Harvest Festival, where the kids can play in the street and the parents can feel relaxed and casually enjoy music and the company of friends. This kind of scene fits with the couple’s community vision for the shop, which Siobhan calls “cozy and small town, but with its own unique personality and flavor”