EASTON — This deli gas station, Runway Liquors, is different from your run of the mill convenience store.
First of all it has a canary yellow airplane secured in concrete right outside next to the pumps. Also if you know any thing about bourbon, this is the place to go. Steve Panduwawala has an attentive clientele who are notified when the really pricey labels come in. One is called Old Carter. It is not easy to find and it costs about $500 a bottle unless you find the 12 year old version, which is more.
Everything is gleaming with the promise of a new venture. The ceiling is painted in baby blue and fluffy clouds. He plans on putting large model planes up in the “sky” but he just ran out of time before the ribbon cutting. Brand new refrigerators stocked with beverages hum along the perimeter and there are three men behind the counter ready to ring you up. There is even a large electronic lottery machine that stands next to the cashier’s station. You can even stock up on bait here.
The plane has a backstory.
“We hauled the plane. We want customers to think it crashed here. It was in a junk place. He took it. He buffed it. He painted it,” said Dunisha Panduwawala of her husband Steve. They own Runway Liquors together.
The husband and wife team who run this venture are originally from Sri Lanka, an island nation at the tip of India. They are excited with this new project. There is a gleam in their eyes at this opportunity. And they know most of their clients by first names. The ribbon cutting on May 21 has the clubby feeling of a family reunion. They have been in the community for 30 years.
“I run the store and he runs the car dealership,” she said. They also own Ceylon Auto Traders just up Route 50 from their store. They have created more than a few LLCs in their time in America. She finished her four year degree in accounting at Salisbury University in 2008. Now she is applying this skill to the store.
The location housed two former convenience stores. Fast Stop and Six Twelve. The new business is detail focused and there was already a steady stream of customers getting gas and discovering a whole new world inside the store. And that is before the ribbon was even cut.
“This is the first liquor store I have ever owned. We are selling food. We have chicken, potatoes, hot wings, full deli, and the most popular cheese steak in Easton. It’s not hard running the gas station because I worked here ten years prior,” said owner Steve.
“With the new face lift and the new team we are about bringing new people into the store, into one spot for everything. This one spot has liquor, beer, deli, wine, and a gas station all together,” he said.
“Right now we are number one bourbon store in Talbot County. Since we took over, I invest a lot of money on the liquor. I went through all the channels to find the allocation of bourbon. Even though you have all the money to spend, you can’t get it. A guy called the other day. I told him we have it, but I am not selling it. He said how much do you want? I told him and he came the next day. I gave him another bottle that he could not find. So we make a relationship with the community. They see what I get for them, not outsiders,” Steve said.
True to his word there is a back closet where all the security monitors glow. And up on a literal top shelf, the bespoke bourbon abides.
Local dignitaries were there to celebrate the new business opening on May 21. Easton Mayor Robert Willey, state lawmakers Johnny Mautz and Addie Eckardt. Dave Wooten from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Salisbury office was there to mark the new start.
“I always appreciate a new business. If they are getting a refresh like new ownership or they have remodeled they bring fresh energy to the county,” Eckardt said.
Amy Kreiner, president and CEO of Talbot County Chamber of Commerce, also welcomed the new local business. “My favorite part is celebrating another great business success in Talbot County. Expansions, renaming and brand new openings it’s all good for Talbot County. Look how busy they are, they are doing such a great job.”