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Petrock's: Two Destinations, Same Philosophy

Restaurant and liquor store have existed in some form since 1961.

The story of Petrock’s is an interesting one. It is a story that involves several different variations of a business that currently shares one name, yet exists as two separate entities.

According to Bonnie Petrock, who owns , and her brother Nick, who owns next door, the legacy of Petrock’s in Hillsborough began in 1961 when the duo’s parents opened up a liquor store and small bar, which was unique for its time in Somerset County.

“We were probably one of the first liquor stores in the area, except for a couple small stores around here,” Nick Petrock said.

Things stayed that way until 1977, when the liquor store expanded into a more modern form and the bar portion of Petrock’s, due to health issues of its owner and other, insurance-related issues, closed for an extended period of time.

“My dad was asthmatic. The bar was a smoking bar at the time," Bonnie Petrock said. "When he put the addition on the liquor store, he made that non-smoking, and they were still smoking in stores at that time. My father closed the bar because every time he would walk in here, he’d get sick. At the same time, (around) 1978 or 1979, liquor liability started coming around. The insurance was sky-high for bars. The laws were not really good, so my father, I think, just had a lot of foresight. He kept the store open; he was a man of principle more than anything (even though), having a bar open, you’re going to make more money.”

It was not until 1992 that Petrock’s Bar and Grille, in its current incarnation, re-opened as a non-smoking restaurant. In doing this, Petrock’s was way ahead of its time; a public smoking ban was not instituted in New Jersey until 14 years later in 2006. Still, Petrock’s was unafraid to stand out.

“I thought it was a personal thing; there are a lot of bars, small shot-and-beer joints, where (smokers were) their business,” Bonnie Petrock said. “A lot of those places went out of business because of that non-smoking law. We were the pioneers of that. That was my father’s wish; he actually passed away in 1989, and he actually was talking about re-opening the bar before he died.”

Today, Petrock’s remains a Hillsborough staple. Known for its friendly customer service and the restaurant’s convenient location in proximity to the liquor store—a door within the building actually connects the two—it remains a popular destination for those looking for a good night out.

“Some people come over here for dinner and go over there shopping,” Nick Petrock said. “That happens all the time.”

Both the liquor store and the restaurant make a large amount of contributions to the community, donating to many local organizations, including school groups, the Somerset Valley Players and volunteer organizations, such as local fire companies and boy scout troops.

“Where (the liquor store will) donate is to all the firehouses. We sponsor all of them for any golf outings and any kind of fundraisers they have,” Nick Petrock said. “I donate soda and ice to boy scouts, to 4-H. If anybody ever came in to ask for anything they needed, I always help them out in some way.”

Bonnie Petrock added, “(The restaurant will) donate pretty heavily in the schools, with any sport that comes up. On occasion, we’ve done a couple fundraisers for friends of people that had cancer in the past.”

To Bonnie Petrock, donating to community organizations is more than a nice gesture—it is an obligation of small businesses throughout Hillsborough and beyond.

“I just say, ‘no spiel, just give me the paperwork.’ I don’t need that; I’m going to donate anyway,” she said. “I think it’s just important that businesses donate, and I see a lot that people don’t. I almost feel like it’s a responsibility of the businesses.”

The siblings can also agree on another responsibility of a small business, even one as well-established as Petrock’s: quality customer service and care.

“Even though we’re reopened here for 20 years, constantly I’m watching to see that the customers have service,” Bonnie Petrock said. “It never ceases. Never. Not in my eyes. It’s just important. That’s what you’re here for.”

Joe April 24, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Petrock's liquor store has a large selection of craft beer and I love the attention they're giving to the craft beer market. I wish the bar made these same selections available so that I could stop in for a taste.
Bonnie Petrock April 24, 2012 at 11:08 PM
The Liquor store has free beer tastings every Saturday 3-6.
Hepcat April 25, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Agreed with Joe - the selection of craft beer is great at Petrock's. The addition of Frank as Craft Beer Manager was a smart move. Now, not only do I know where to go to get the beers, but I have someone to help me find the styles I love AND suggest new ones, based on what he knows I enjoy. It's also a nice touch that Frank e-mails me when new beers come in that he knows I like. Not to mention, I get to sample new brews at the tastings. Really, a personal touch that you don't find anymore. Beyond just the beer, the entire staff is friendly and helpful and always willing to lend a hand or make a suggestion when you need it! It's the only liquor store in town I'll go to these days.
Brandon Knox April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I love both the bar and the store. Great service at both, and I couldn't agree more with the above posts regarding the craft beers. I used to do more business at Bottle King, but their service is horrendous and know nothing about the products they are selling. Petrock's is great!
Joe April 25, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Yes, and I enjoy those tastings. I just wish the bar had the same craft beer availability as the store does. I would absolutely be in there more often if it did.
Hepcat April 26, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I agree with Joe about this, too! As it stands, I have to go into Princeton, Manville or Branchburg for a good craft beer tap selection. I'd love to be able to enjoy some of the beers I buy at the store on tap in the bar.

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