Last of Its Kind: Hoboken’s Drive-Thru Beer and Soda Outlet Has Seen Changing Times Over 44 Years

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Inspired by Hoboken’s #thisplacematters campaign, we’re profiling long-standing businesses in Hudson County that contribute to the distinctive culture of North Jersey. Know a business worthy of a feature? Email us: [email protected]

Hoboken Beer And Soda Outlet Drive Thru 559 Newark Street 2
Hoboken Beer and Soda Outlet is one of the last drive-through liquor stores in the Northeast. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

From his prime vantage point at a busy Hoboken corner near the border with Jersey City, Hoboken Beer and Soda Outlet owner Joe Mignoli has seen it all, particularly the changes in his industry since his father moved his soda business to Hoboken in 1975.

Joe’s father, also named Joe (different middle names), used to carbonate and bottle municipal water at a plant on Second Street in downtown Jersey City before he bought a small building in Hoboken. That was long before people became more health-conscious, and before spring water became, as they say, “a thing.” Since then, Joe has seen lots of other changes in soda and alcohol preferences.

“Hard seltzer is popular now,” he says on an unseasonably cold Tuesday, looking out of his small, heated office in the warehouse, from which he can watch traffic pass on two sides. “White Claw has a strong hold. Time will tell.”

Hoboken Beer And Soda Outlet Drive Thru 559 Newark Street 5
Joe Mignoli stands outside the Grove Street entrance to Hoboken Beer and Soda Outlet. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

He says he’s not sure of the reason for the hard seltzer trend.

“Because it’s healthier than beer?” I suggest.

“It’s beer,” he says.

I laugh.

“No, it is beer,” he emphasizes. “It’s derived from malt.”

In fact, many of the trendy drinks of the past — Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers, Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Lemonades — are flavored malt liquor.

Mignoli’s company is one of the last drive-through alcohol stores in the region. Thrillist lists the outlet in “10 of America’s Best Drive-Thru Liquor Stores.”

Mignoli won’t sell other alcoholic beverages besides the beer varieties, for legal reasons. And he’s careful with the beer.

“We have refused people,” says his wife, Teri, who has worked there for 20 years and also has seen it all. (The pair met at a Jersey City bar in the 1980s.)

Joe’s been getting calls about CBD drinks, but isn’t sure he wants to stock them, or even that he supports the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, “Because how do you measure the impairment?”

Hoboken Beer And Soda Outlet Drive Thru 559 Newark Street 1
Joe Mignoli runs the business with his wife Teri out of a small office in the warehouse. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Joe’s father started bottling soda around 1950 at 375 Second Street in Jersey City, calling his brand Colonial.

“He’d get the sugar in 100-pound bags and mix it with water,” Joe says. “I worked there. I would put the bottles on a conveyor belt.”

His father sold popular flavors like orange soda.

In 1969, the elder Joe learned of a soda business on South 12th Street in Newark, Star Brewing, so he bought that company too. As he delivered bottles to liquor stores, he thought about running his own.

A man who ran a flea market on Newark Street in Hoboken, where the Skyline Condo building is now, suggested the elder Joe rent a building there. Eventually, Joe did and then bought the small building across the street, where they are today.

They own 6,000 square feet of space on the corner of Newark and Grove streets.

Hoboken Beer And Soda Outlet Drive Thru 559 Newark Street 6
Joe Mignoli’s father started in the beverage business by bottling soda in Jersey City in the 1950s. He later bought a company in Newark. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Young Joe worked for the family business while growing up in Jersey City Heights, then obtained a degree in business management at St. Peter’s College. When the elder Joe passed away, young Joe took over.

Now he sits atop a prime parcel in rapidly developing Hoboken, but he’s not thinking about selling just yet (maybe in five to 10 years he’ll retire, he says).

He takes the business seriously. Wife Teri says he’s a fountain (so to speak) of beverage knowledge.

So, what don’t people know about soda and beer?

“Seltzer and club soda are the same,” he says. “People swear they’re different.”

And what’s the strangest drink he’s ever sold?

“We sold Cave Creek Chili Beer,” he says. “There was a hot pepper in each bottle. It tasted like drinking pepper juice out of a jar.” (An article about it on a website refers to it as “the worst beer in the world.”)

Hoboken Beer And Soda Outlet Drive Thru 559 Newark Street 3
Hoboken’s busy Newark Avenue, as seen from Hoboken Beer and Soda Outlet. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Joe’s business sells 400,000 to 500,000 cases of beer each year, he says, not surprising, as he’s sandwiched between two towns with a robust bar and restaurant scene (and robust recent college graduates moving in).

But business has been harder now that he has to compete with big-box stores like BJ’s and Costco. “We offer friendly service and competitive pricing,” he says. “And the convenience of a drive-through. You don’t have to find parking. If you ask for something at Costco, they say, ‘Let me go find someone to help you.’ ”

Teri observes a customer pulling in via Newark Street, then coming to a stop before the exit. “He knows to pull all the way up,” she notes. “Our guys in the booth confirm the quantity so no mistakes are made. And they’re on their way.”

Besides beer and soda, the store sells CO2 gas for bars and home brewing systems (and for fish tanks), nitrogen tanks for cold brew coffee, and kegs.

While they sell 400 types of beer, as well as sodas and waters, they don’t branch into other products much. So what has changed most over the years?

“They’ve drunk less soda,” Joe says of his customers. “The waters have gone up in demand, Vitamin Water and flavored seltzer, like LaCroix and Poland Spring. To be honest, when I was a kid, [soda was] all we drank. When we played ball, I used to fill a cooler with cola and ice, not water.”

Craft beer was popular for a time and is coming back, he says. Energy drinks are popular, “But the only ones that sell are Red Bull and Monster.”

Hoboken Beer And Soda Outlet Drive Thru 559 Newark Street 4
A site for sore eyes? The wall of Corona and other beers in Hoboken Beer and Soda Outlet. Joe Mignoli says the store sells 300,000 to 400,000 cases of beverages each year. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

So besides retiring, any dreams of stardom?

Joe has sold products to Buddy Valastro of “Cake Boss,” but he says there probably won’t be a “Beer Boss.”

“I think we missed that ship,” he laughs. “We heard many suggestions. Nothing ever evolved.”

Joe’s beverages of choice are Corona or Guinness, while Teri likes Corona, wine, and sangria.

Even though Joe’s been at the same job for decades, he’s not tired of it yet.

“I enjoy it,” he says. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had. I’m here five to six days a week.”

Hoboken Beer and Soda Outlet is located at 559 Newark Street, Hoboken, 201-792-2776. Besides the drive-through, people can walk in.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. While I do love this place and the staff that works there, the place is an eyesore. It could stand to benefit from a face lift. Perhaps a page out of Jersey City’s playbook with a mural or two to help draw attention while making it fit in to its surrounding neighborhood’s…

    • how is it an eye sore? looks perfectly fine to me. a small little warehouse that sells drinks. why can’t it look like that? why must everything need to “draw attention” or ugly murlas or to “fit in” . the new buildings around it don’t look like they fit in actually, if you’re used to how the area was a decade or so ago.

  2. I’ve been going here for years and I love this place. The article is right the staff does really focus on customer service and it shows

  3. Eyesore??………So a business that has been here for almost 50 years now has to acquiesce to the demands of the bourgeois gentrification police? ………..or maybe we should hit it with the wrecking ball and put up a stack of Bayonne boxes. Because that would look so much better.

  4. Interesting…hers a slightly different view from a relative:

    ….the beginning of the story is a bit garbled. My father [not the guy in this story] was the sole owner of Colonial Beverages located at 375 Second Street in downtown Jersey City. He purchased the business around 1927 or 1928.
    The senior Joe Mignoli, who was six or so years older then me, worked with his grandfather Joe Biviano on a truck that delivered soda and beer, bought from Colonial wholesale, to homes in Hudson County for many years. Colonial also delivered to homes and sold wholesale to stores, restaurants and banquet halls.

    Around 1958 my father had a heart attack and tried to sell the business. He was unsuccessful. I believe Joe Mignoli senior acquired the beer distributor license and then later opened the Hoboken operation. I have no recollection of Mignoli operating the business in Jersey City. I may be wrong here (age clouds the memory).

    My father continued to own the building for quite some time and as far as I can remember the Mignolis did not pay the rent. Its possible Joe senior purchased the machinery and moved it to Newark.

    “Joe’s father started bottling soda around 1950 at 375 Second Street in Jersey City, calling his brand Colonial”
    Another View: It was Colonial before my father bought it in the 1920s.

    “He’d get the sugar in 100-pound bags and mix it with water,” Joe says.
    More info: The sugar was in 100 pound bags purchased from Blum Brothers. it was mixed with water and concentrated syrup.

  5. Support your locally owned business!
    Otherwise its all gonna be walmarts and dunkin krappy donuts…the second street bakery in JC is still one of the best around…

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