In just four short years, owner Robert Wengrofsky managed to take an already thriving business and make it even more successful, with a hands-on approach and customer satisfaction as his number one priority.
Since he took over the business at 450 Central Ave. in 2008, Wengrofsky’s main objective has been stocking exactly the kind of merchandise his customers want, and occasionally tweaking his inventory to suit changing times and tastes.
Wengrofsky’s pleasant personality and professionalism serves him well in a business where shoppers often have questions about hardware and various other products, such as home goods, sundry items and much more. You name it, he’s got it. And if he doesn’t have it, he’ll get it. That’s his credo.
“I have tremendous buying power to go to any manufacturer in the country and get the merchandise my customers want,” he said. “It gives me the ability to find a bigger variety of products.”
Ameena Sheoskanker, a 17-year employee of the store, said that her boss is very accommodating, always going above and beyond to satisfy his customers.
“He’s a really nice man and very helpful with the customers,” she said. “If they need something special we don’t have, he’ll try to get it for them as soon as he can.”
Back to school
According to Wengrofsky, many residents shop at the Variety Connection instead of other local stores for school supplies because of the personalized service and the convenience of having everything under one roof. He said that he offers things that you can’t get at big box stores such as Target, Walmart, Staples or Office Max.
“If there’s some new or unusual item that a teacher wants, we will order it,” he said. “Those big stores have everything strewn around, with no one to help you, and they don’t have everything you need. We have the school supply lists. You just give us the list, and we will put the whole thing together and even put it in the car for you.”
Sheoskanker concurs, and said that this store is a best bet for back-to-school shopping.
“This time of year, the owner really helps parents get everything they need for their children’s school supplies,” she said. “We have so many different things, it’s really convenient.”
A man for all seasons
“This is really a seasonal business,” Wengrofsky said. “Soon, we’ll have the Jewish holidays, like Sukkot. We bring in decorations, extension cords, lighting fixtures, velcro, rope and timers. Since 99 percent of my customers are Orthodox, and I’m also an Orthodox Jew, I know about all the products that they want and where to get them. That’s something that the previous owners didn’t really have.”
A small example of other seasonal merchandise he will stock up on during the year include aluminum foil and tins for Thanksgiving; holiday items for Hannukah; ice melt, sleds and shovels for winter; shelf coverings for Passover; soft trunks for camp season; and water toys, beach supplies and small pools for summer.
“My father had a store like this, so I grew up in the family business,” Wengrofsky said. “Now that my father is retired, he helps me a few hours a day.”
The Variety Connection was originally called C & R Grand back in the 1950s, according to Wengrofsky. He grew up in the area, so he was familiar with the store, which he says was the closest thing this neighborhood had to a Woolworth’s at the time.
“I’ve lived in Woodmere for about 40 years," Wengrofsky said, "and I like that my business is close to where I live and that a lot of my customers are friends of mine or friends of my children — people I’ve known over the years.”