Liquor Store to Award Scholarships to Elementary School Students

By Wendell Hutson on March 20, 2013 8:58am | Updated on March 20, 2013 3:41pm

GRAND CROSSING — For the second year, Happy Liquor & Food plans to award two $500 scholarships to students at McDade Classical Elementary School.

"The money for the scholarships will come from our sales and will go toward the best student in math and science," said Juan Alvarez, a manager at the 40-year-old liquor store at 7901 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

"Our purpose for doing this is simple: We want to contribute to the neighborhood and show people we do more than sell alcohol," Alvarez said.

Last year, McDade students Elijah Howard and Kayla Bilal were the recipients of the scholarships.  Alvarez said this year the store hopes to award two athletic scholarships, too.

"These kids are our future. They're the ones who will be our customers 20 years from now, and we want to show them that local businesses do care about their future," he said.

"I think too many gifted students get overlooked when it comes to scholarships because the world is focused on athletes. We need more leaders in science and math, and that is why providing these scholarships is so important,” Alvarez said.

Nick Hoidus, also a manager at Happy Liquor, said McDade was chosen to receive the scholarships at the recommendation of Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th).

"We work closely with the alderman and rely on him to recommend schools and organizations we could support. He has been a big asset for us," Hoidus said.

And Sawyer, whose ward includes McDade School, was more than happy to help.

"Happy Liquors is doing some good things for the community, and I support what they are doing," Sawyer said. "I wish other liquor stores and other businesses would do the same and stop selling the community short."

Happy Liquor is in Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) Ward, who did not return calls seeking comment.

Alvarez said McDade officials will select two eighth-graders who excelled in science and math this school year and present the scholarships at the school's annual awards ceremony in June.

McDade Principal Daniel Perry was unavailable for comment.

Hoidus said the store does more for the community than fund the scholarships.

Since 2011 Happy Liquors has not sold malt liquor or fortified wines, such as Wild Irish Rose. Selling inexpensive and high-alcohol drinks attracted the wrong types of customers, Alvarez said.

The store also stopped selling blunt-style cigars (which can be used to smoke pot), added armed security, altered its hours, cracked down on loitering outside the store and prohibited those under 18 in the store unless they're accompanied by an adult.

The changes came after the store was closed from April to July 2011 for building code violations as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to shut down what he described as "troubled business."

Knowing that Happy Liquors funds student scholarships is encouraging to regular customer Joe Brown, 31.

"Knowing that any money I spend there is going toward scholarships is a cool thing. It definitely is an incentive for me to keep shopping there," Brown said.

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