MICHAEL FRIDJHON: How Benny Goldberg popped the cork on a new wine culture
The doyen of liquor retail introduced shoppers in the 1960s to the largest selection under one roof
The death in early April of Sylvia Goldberg, widow of Benny Goldberg, whose eponymous wine and spirits store in Kew, Johannesburg was once the world’s largest liquor supermarket, symbolises far more than “the end of an era”. The era ended pretty much in the mid-1980s when the Goldbergs exited the business. Within a few years Premier Milling, which had acquired a controlling interest in the mid-1970s, sold its shares to Sam Berk, a Cape Town retailer. The spirit, passion and entrepreneurial zeal of the founders was overwhelmed by corporate mindsets (first of Premier Milling and then of Berk’s Drop Inn group). Since this coincided with the decline of Kew-Wynberg as an acceptable location for a destination outlet, the demise was inevitable. However, in the 20 or so years before this implosion Benny Goldberg’s was more than simply an institution: it came to define how wine was sold in Johannesburg. In this way it played an essential role in the conversion of the inland areas from a bee...