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3rd generation merchant still going strong
Miner Mart Liquor owner Mike Morowit is a third generation merchant. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Mike Morowit is dealing with a double whammy – an economic slowdown that’s hurting his customer base plus competition from the 900-pound gorillas of retail in the form of Wal-Mart and Costco.

Morowit is doing what other small businessmen are doing – working more hours, doubling down on convenience by extending store hours and selection, plus responding to the pocketbook of customers.

“My father always said woe is me doesn’t pay the bills,” said Morowit from behind the cash register of his store in Lincoln Center on West Yosemite Avenue.

A steady stream of customers – everyone knowing him on a first name basis – flowed through the store Tuesday afternoon.

Morowit said buying habits have changed and he’s changed his stock accordingly.

“Instead of people buying $50 bottles of Patron like they were a few years back when times were good they’re buying $20 bottles of tequila,” he said.

There is also an upswing in beer sales with liquor volume dropping off.

Morowit, 44, has owned Miner Mart Liquor for 15 years having bought that business from Bob Miner who recently passed away. Prior to that he was a route salesman that supplied stores such as his with groceries and candy.
As a teen he worked weekends at the liquor store his father and mother Jack and Elaine Morowit owned in Hayward for 40 years. His dad’s father also owned a store.

The last thing he ever wanted to do was to own his own store. He went to college and secured a degree in criminal justice and worked with the Alameda County probation department several years before becoming a route salesman.

Being able to make his own decisions as well as interact with customers are the big pluses for Morowit for depending upon how own business to make a living.

“It takes a lot of discipline,” said Morowit who works six days a week. “You’ve got to buy right and know when to cutback.”

You also have to be willing to work even more hours when things slack off. Morowit, though, notes there is a point you can’t cut employee hours back and still keep them making it a balancing act.

“You want to keep people working but you’ve also got to pay the bills,” Morowit said.

Morowit noted that the small guys have to beat the big guys on playing fields where the big boxes can’t compete.

“They (Costco) may have 10 or so different beers but we have 10 times that amount and in different sizes,” Morowit said of his domestic and foreign beer selection.

The same is true with liquor.

He also noted small retailers not only can beat the big retailers in terms of personal servcie but they can do extra things like special orders including securing kegs.

Despite the constant struggles, Morowit said buying the store was one of his smartest moves as it brought him to Manteca.

“It’s a great place,” Morowit said.

His daughter Lauren is a senior at Sierra High while daughter Lizzie is a sixth grader at Manteca Christian School.

Morowit serves as vice chairman of the Manteca Planning Commission and is a member of the Measure M public safety tax oversight committee among other civic endeavors.

Miner Mart is open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. as well as Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight.