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Pappy Van Winkle auction remembers founder, raises funds

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Jan 1, 2021

From left, library Director Hali Taylor holds out the raffle ticket container for Mayor Jim Auxer to draw the winning ticket from, as Shepherdstown Liquors co-owner Peggah Sadeghzadeh looks on, Tuesday evening. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — One of Shepherdstown’s great tragedies this past summer, was the loss of Shepherdstown Liquors owner Mohsen Sadeghzadeh, resulting from injuries sustained in a car accident.

For the six weeks after his death, his business was run by its manager, Whitney Master, until its new owners, Mohsen’s children, felt ready to take over. Peggah Sadeghzadeh and Kaveh Sadeghzadeh have since become integral parts of Shepherdstown Liquors’ operations.

“It was definitely a big loss, and we had to adjust to not having him around,” Master said in the store on Tuesday afternoon. “He brought a lot of good vibes here.”

Master has worked at Shepherdstown Liquors since Mohsen opened it in Oct. 2010, eventually rising to her current position there three years ago. In her first year as manager, Mohsen decided to launch a new charitable initiative at the store, to help the Shepherdstown Public Library reach its fundraising goals for its new building project.

“My dad was definitely very charitable with finding different opportunities to give back. He actually went to school at Shepherd University, so I think he had a particular soft spot for Shepherdstown,” Peggah said Tuesday afternoon. “He befriended so many of the customers, including the people at the library.”

The Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey sits in Shepherdstown Liquors on Tuesday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

According to Peggah, the business donated regularly to local charity auctions over the last 10 years, and will continue to do so under its new leadership. It will also continue holding the library fundraiser for the foreseeable future — a raffle for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, valued at $2,000.

“I think it’s a fun tradition. It’s a good cause,” Peggah said. “It brings the community together, and people enjoy it.”

This year’s winning ticket, bought by Shepherdstown resident Angie Sosdian, was randomly selected in front of the current library building by Mayor Jim Auxer. It was one of a record-breaking 613 tickets sold at the store and the library.

“I’m so excited! I’m so thrilled! This was so unexpected. I’m so happy!” Sosdian said, in response to the news.

While the bourbon will undoubtedly be prized by Sosdian, what SPL Director Hali Taylor said will be even more valuable, will be the impact the raffle funds will make with the library project. Over the four years the raffle has been held, enough money has been raised to make a noticeable impact on the project’s development.

A customer completes a transaction at Shepherdstown Liquors' counter, beside a framed photograph of former owner Mohsen Sadeghzadeh, on Tuesday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“We will offer Mohsen’s family a naming opportunity, in honor of him,” Taylor said, following the raffle drawing Tuesday night. “Over the last four years, they’ve raised enough money to be offered a naming opportunity. Not everyone we offer it to chooses to take advantage of the naming opportunity, but we hope they will!”

According to Peggah, Mohsen’s appreciation for the library, and libraries in general, ran deep. Along with donating the expensive bottle at his own expense for three years in a row, Mohsen also donated enough books to create a library in his home village in Damghan, Iran.

“He always loved books,” Peggah said. “What I remember, is that he had taken a few Harry Potter books to Iran for the kids, and then he heard they were fighting over them, so then he went and bought a bunch of books for them. They created a library with the books he had donated.”

Although Mohsen is now gone, Peggah said he will live on through charitable contributions, like the raffle, his business and her family’s memories. Along with his two children, Mohsen is survived by his wife, who immigrated with him to the U.S. on the final Iran Air flight after the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis, when she was pregnant with Kaveh, their firstborn.

“They had a great story for sure,” Peggah said.