Donald McDonald purchased an empty lot in East Hampton in 1969 on Newtown Lane, long before the days of luxury retail stores. A high school teacher at the time, McDonald built a discount liquor store, a party store, and the offices above it, all after the dismissal bell rang, and throughout the summer months, to open up his family business that very same year. Today, that discount liquor store has become better recognized as Park Place Wines & Liquors.
“For us growing up, the family business was there and the whole community came in. Especially around Christmas time. Everybody knew everybody else,” said Donald’s daughter, Donna McDonald. Her brother, Tom McDonald, chimed in, “It was almost better than the local barber shop.”
The McDonalds are a family rooted into East Hampton from the ground up. Donald was born in East Hampton, in a house, not a hospital. He later met his wife, Alice, while he was lifeguarding at Main Beach, a marriage that would last 54 years. Although Donald had begun to delegate responsibilities to their children around 2008, it was in 2011, after Alice passed away, that both Donna and Tom took over management of Park Place. Donna handles the staff and Tom handles accounting. Together, they’ve refreshed an old family business into a thriving business model for the future.
At 89 years old, Donald still comes into the store on a daily basis. “He’s an old fixture in the community. He has a mindset where he cares about people and East Hampton,” said Donna about her father. It’s become a synchronized routine, both endearing and lighthearted, as the staff pulls all the bottles to the front of the store and leaves them out so Donald can see them upon arrival. While Donald has stepped back, he certainly hasn’t tired out, she said.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience to work with my brother,” said Donna. She moved to San Francisco in 1996, but still spends her summers in East Hampton and during the holiday months, where she always sees Tom, who has remained a local. She said she relishes “the joy of having people come in, and the cultural experience of not just meeting people, but helping them with the history of a wine, how it pairs.”
Park Place has evolved from a discount liquor store into more of a wine shop, with sommeliers and industry experts that bring knowledge and value into the area. There’s even a tasting table in the store where patrons can partake in sampling different products before buying, from wine to tequila, whiskey, and more.
As the McDonalds, and the entire East Hampton community, commemorate 50 years of Park Place Wines & Liquors, it’s also a celebration of life and the family that has brought moments of happiness to those around them. A bottle of wine, or liquor, is more than the alcohol by volume listed on the label. It symbolizes a gathering of friends, family, and perfect strangers. It’s date night at home, toasting to a new promotion, sipping while watching beach sunsets, a barbecue, a Tuesday night, a memory.
“When my dad was courting my mother, who was in New Jersey at the time, he would drive to her from East Hampton. This is before the Long Island Expressway was built. He would take Sunrise Highway all the way to the G.W. Bridge, just to have lunch with her family on Sundays,” Donna said of her maternal side of the family, who were all from Italy. “Italians had lunch on Sundays after church, and they’d all drink Manhattans, or Negronis. So, we drink those two things to remember my mother.”
Park Place Wines is located at 84 Park Place in East Hampton. See all they are up to at www.parkplacewines.com.