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Clear Spring couple feels at home in business

February 13, 2002

Clear Spring couple feels at home in business



By MARLO BARNHART
marlob@herald-mail.com


CLEAR SPRING - Thirty years ago, Bill and Julie Albowicz were looking for a lifestyle change.

"We needed both a way to make a living and a place to live," Julie Albowicz said.

The solution to both those problems was to buy Hoff Inc., a liquor store in downtown Clear Spring with a comfortable home included over the business.

There are pros and cons to having your home and your business under the same roof.

Julie Albowicz said it was nice not having to go out in bad weather to get to work - they just have to walk downstairs.

"I was also able to stay at home and raise our four children," she said. "Think about it ... we never needed baby sitters."

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The downside is competition from big chain stores and little time off. And then there are the customers who know they live upstairs and want service after hours.

Both became active in town activities through years of parenting school-aged children. They also got involved in the political arena.

Julie Albowicz, 55, is now vice mayor of the couple's adopted town of Clear Spring. Husband Bill, 59, is a councilman. They each spent hours, separately and together, taking care of the town's business.

Early in their married life, the couple moved around a lot while Bill Albowicz was completing three years in the U.S. Navy. They were in Iceland before returning to the United States in the mid 1960s.

Prior to coming to Clear Spring, Bill and Julie Albowicz had a farmette in Washington County along Harpers Ferry Road.

"I was working for United Parcel Service when I had a bad accident," Bill Albowicz said. Serious ankle and knee injuries forced him to leave that job and look for something else.

Julie Albowicz was working as a supply clerk at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., during that time and she too was ready for a change.

"When we first were in business, I could put the children down on the floor with their toys," Julie Albowicz said. Through the years, all four children have taken their turns helping their parents out in the store.

"Even though they all worked here at some time, Bill always wanted them to be kids and do things at school," Julie Albowicz said. And they all did.

But now, with the youngest in her last year of college, that built-in help is pretty much a thing of the past.

"Often there is only one of us working, dealing with customers and salesmen, selling lottery tickets and answering the telephone," Bill Albowicz said.

For a while, Hoff Inc. was also a mini-convenience store with bread, cereal and other basic household items for sale. Now the store sells liquor, cigarettes, lottery tickets and a few other sidelines.

"The liquor store business is pretty even, bad economy or not," Julie Albowicz said.

And bottom line, the store has allowed each to do what he and she enjoy most - Bill Albowicz likes the business end of things, while Julie Albowicz has always preferred dealing with the public.

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