Growlers at State Line

Matthew, from left, Robert and John Murray display empty growler bottles. They are the first business in Cecil County to obtain a growler license, which they hope to begin using after the 4th of July.

Owners of State Line Liquors made a little bit of history last week.

That's when the Cecil County Board of License (Liquor) Commissioners issued State Line owners the first license to sell “growlers,” a refillable glass container for craft beer, in Cecil County.

The new law, introduced by Cecil County lawmakers in January, was passed by the Maryland General Assembly this spring and takes effect July 1.

Robert Murray, one of the owners of State Line Liquors, said they probably won't be ready to start selling growlers to customers until after July 4.

“We've got a lot to do yet,” he said Thursday. “But, we're very excited about this.”

Murray has wanted to do this for the last five years, but stepped up efforts to push for legislation last year.

Marcella Murray-Lockwood, also one of the owners, asked the liquor board last July to introduce legislation for the 2013 session to enable the business to sell growlers, which have become increasingly popular with craft beer drinkers in recent years.

“It would increase sales and bring in more tax revenue,” she told the liquor board last July.

Murray said many customers are asking for growlers and this new license will meet the demand created by the huge increase in popularity of craft beer.

“We are thankful for all the support we received to get this legislation passed,” Murray said, pointing out the support from County Executive Tari Moore, the liquor board and Cecil County's state lawmakers.

The new license comes just in time to help the owners celebrate 40 years in business at 1610 Elkton Road, which they will mark officially Sept. 13.

Growlers will be refilled in 32-oz. and 64-oz containers from five taps of yet-to-be selected craft beers, but will quickly evolve into 16 tap offerings by the end of August in preparation for the 40th anniversary.

But, as Murray explained on Thursday, the growler addition to the business isn't the only change for the liquor store.

They plan to launch into a major renovation of the 17,000 square-foot facility in July with the goal of completing it by Sept. 13.

“We're going to tear down the back wall of the retail floor room, build a new sit-down tasting room for beer and wine, paint, add new light fixtures and redesign the floor plan,” Murray said.

“It's just fun,” he said, adding, “Business has been very healthy.”

He said, oddly enough, his sales are nearly evenly divided among liquor, beer and wine at one-third each.

“Craft distillers, craft breweries and the popularity of wine has been good for us,” said Murray, who carries 2,600 different beers in stock.

The renovation will create more retail floor space, carving out a bigger area for speciality cheeses and meats and allow for take-out food trays.

The current members of the Murray family, including Marcella, Robert, John and Joan MacKenzie represent the third generation of Murrays in the liquor business and they are currently training some of their children to carry on, if they choose.

The four siblings, all children of Ethel and J. “Jack” Walter Murray II, are joined in ownership of the business by longtime family friend Rick Ostrano.

J. Walter “John” Murray III said his grandfather J. Walter Murray Sr. and two great aunts May and Dola, owned May Murray's Liquor & Groceries at 129 Bridge Street in Elkton from the late 1930s until 1963 when his mother and father bought it.

Ethel and Jack moved the business to its current location in 1973 and operated it until 1991 when they sold it to their children and Ostrano.

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