Hank Robinson, owner of Denver’s Argonaut Wine and Liquor, dies at 96

Hank Robinson, owner of Denver’s Argonaut Wine and Liquor, dies at 96

When he and his father purchased the enterprise in 1965, Hank Robinson was an insurance coverage agent that didn’t know something about operating a liquor retailer. Within the a long time that adopted, the youthful Robinson, with the assistance of his brother, Jack, and different members of the family, would construct Argonaut Wine & Liquor into one of the crucial recognizable liquor shops within the state, shaping Colfax Avenue and the Colorado alcohol trade within the course of.

Courtesy Argonaut Wine and LiquorHank Robinson died Jan. 31, 2018 on the age of 96. The longtime proprietor of Argonaut Wine and Liquor was identified for embracing innovation and relationships in his enterprise.Robinson died Wednesday. He was 96.

A fixture on the household retailer at 760 E. Colfax even after age confined him to a scooter, associates and family members remembered Robinson this week as a studious enterprise proprietor, sturdy believer in customer support and innovator.

“He would give issues a attempt. He would help new manufacturers,” Martin Chambers, a buddy and wine distributor who labored with Robinson for years, mentioned Sunday. “And now Argonaut is among the iconic locations in Denver. I feel folks equate it with if you wish to discover a distinctive spirit or a wine or beer in Denver, you go to Argonaut.”

Born in 1921 and raised in Denver’s Jewish group — later one of many beneficiaries of his many philanthropic efforts — Robinson had one 12 months of faculty and an officer’s fee within the Service provider Marine underneath his belt when he and his father, Lazar, purchased Argonaut from an insurance coverage consumer. He’d labored at a bar earlier than however had no expertise in retail.

On the time, the American urge for food for wine was rising, and Robinson started working studying all about it.

“He took wine programs. He went to wine seminars and wine tastings. He made himself be taught that,” Barry Helfand, one other distributor and buddy, mentioned. “He had an funding there and he was decided to guard it.”

Years later, Robinson would embrace the rise of craft brewing in a lot the identical manner. Distributors keep in mind he was keen to place beers from unproven, small breweries on his cabinets earlier than anybody else.

Robinson additionally modernized Argonaut’s bodily format. When he first took over, the shop had a protracted service counter with a warehouse within the again from which workers would fetch gadgets buyer requested for. Robinson noticed the worth in opening the house, letting clients mingle with educated workers members and choose gadgets from cabinets themselves. In 1972, the Robinsons tore down their first retailer on the nook of Colfax and Washington Road and opened the 20,000-square-foot  Argonaut, the place that customer-focused mannequin was embraced. Thirty-six years later, Robinson can be there when Argonaut, now run by son-in-law Ron Vaughn, doubled down, opening a 40,000-square-foot retailer on the identical lot.

“Anyone can promote a bottle of whiskey however the service and schooling that goes with it’s why you wish to go a retailer that’s regionally owned, regionally operated,” daughter Patti Jo Robinson mentioned. “He actually taught us all that you must care for your clients.”

The Robinson household’s funding in property alongside Colfax would form its future too. Past the shop, the household owns land that’s now residence to the Pure Gorcers and Workplace Depot.

“They’d sufficient imaginative and prescient to purchase up what on the time was slum-like property and it gave them the chance to re-create Argonaut as time modified,” Patti Jo Robinson mentioned. “It’s turn into a customer-friendly procuring surroundings.”

The liquor retailer panorama is altering in Colorado. The adoption of Senate Invoice 197 in 2016 implies that by 2032, main grocery chains akin to King Soopers and Walmart may promote full-strength beer and wine at as much as 20 places all through the state, with license limits going away solely in 2037. The invoice made concessions to non-public liquor retailer homeowners. Beforehand restricted to a single location, they’ll now increase to as many as 4 places, one thing Ron Vaughn mentioned Argonaut is “holding in its again pocket.”

The invoice was a compromise. Liquor retailer homeowners joined others in supporting a gradual roll-out of gross sales at grocery shops as an alternative of opening up the trade to them all of sudden. Vaughn credited his father-in-law — who he mentioned handled distributorships like partnerships and helped construct bridges with different liquor retailer homeowners — for serving to set the tone for that type of advocacy .

“He really was the face of Argonaut,” Vaughn mentioned.