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November 9, 2012

In N.J., Grey Goose vodka supply drying up post-Sandy

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jerseyans with homes swamped and blacked out by Hurricane Sandy face another hardship: a cutoff of Cristal champagne, Grey Goose vodka and an herbal brew called Kamasutra, "the natural spirit of seduction."

The exclusive New Jersey distributor of those and other liquors, Fedway Associates, was still cleaning up Thursday after a 10-foot surge of Hackensack River floodwater inundated its Kearny warehouse last week, according to its Facebook page. Losses will be "in the tens of millions," the posting said.

The company is getting 100 delivery trucks to replace its fleet, has rented a 190,000-square-foot (17,700-square-meter) warehouse and aims to resume operations starting Nov. 19, according to messages on its Facebook page. About 250 employees, joined by customer volunteers, are working three cleaning shifts a day, while Fedway's offices are moving to Somerville.

"We are making rapid and significant progress," Neil Barnett, Fedway's president, said Wednesday on Facebook.

Company officials declined to speak to a reporter, according to John Bartell, who identified himself as an accounts officer with Fedway when reached by telephone.

Fedway's disaster means no source for Grey Goose, the imported French vodka that Sasha Vaynerchuk, 59, owner of Wine Library in Springfield, sells for $35 for 750 milliliters. New Jersey law prohibits retailers from buying supplies from out of state distributors and Fedway has the exclusive rights to sell the liquor in New Jersey, Vaynerchuk said.

"If somebody drinks Grey Goose, you can't replace with Smirnoff or Ketel One," Vaynerchuk said by cellphone.

"On the wine end of it, it's not so difficult, because people will try others," Vaynerchuk said. "The customer has much more loyalty to spirits."

Kamasutra, a ginseng-based liquor, is distributed by Fedway in New Jersey, according to marketers at Herborium Group in Fort Lee. It said in September that Fedway was the state's largest liquor wholesaler, with 7,000 points of sale in stores, restaurants and bars.

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