News

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company Partners with Major Brands

For Immediate Release: February 20, 2017

St. Louis, MO –Urban Chestnut Brewing Company announced today they will change from self-distribution in St. Louis City to partner with Major Brands, Inc. beginning March 1st.

“Major Brands is a first-class operation, with a lot of talented people”, said David Wolfe, Urban Chestnut’s Co-Founder. “We are thrilled to enter into this agreement and work with them to increase our current distribution capabilities in the city of St. Louis as well as maintain the great partnerships with our current retail customers.”

“We are excited to partner with Urban Chestnut and become their distributor in the city of St. Louis, Sue McCollum, CEO of Major Brands, said.  This is a great opportunity for two companies with shared values and a desire to help the city join forces to build both our businesses and the community at the same time.  We are honored to work with Urban Chestnut in the city and look forward to doing great things together.”

Major Brands will be distributing Urban Chestnut’s entire portfolio of award-winning beer styles in St. Louis City as well as continuing to represent the brewery across portions of Missouri in St. Charles and Kansas City.  The portfolio includes industry-leading brands such as Zwickel, Schnickelfritz, Winged Nut, and Variety Packs.  Distribution of three new canned offerings will begin in Spring/Summer 2017: Stammtisch Pilsner, Schnickelfritz Bavarian Weissbier, and Ku’Damm Berliner Weiss (all in 16 ounce cans featuring 360˚ lids).

 “Major Brands is excited to deepen the partnership we forged two years ago when we introduced Urban Chestnut to the Kansas City market.  We look forward to continuing to build their strong portfolio of brands in their home market, the city of St. Louis.”  Mitch Turner, Sales Director, Major Brands.

About Urban Chestnut
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (UCBC) is an unconventional-minded yet tradition-oriented brewer of craft beer.  Founded in 2010 by Florian Kuplent- a German born and trained brewmaster with extensive experience at both small breweries, worldwide, and with the world’s largest, Anheuser-Busch, AND David Wolfe – a 20-year brewing industry member, who was also with Anheuser-Busch, Urban Chestnut operates three breweries in St. Louis, MO; Midtown Brewery & Biergarten at 3229 Washington Avenue in Midtown St. Louis and Grove Brewery & Bierhall at 4465 Manchester and The U.R.B. (Urban Research Brewery) at 4501 Manchester in Forest Park Southeast St. Louis, where it brews both small batches of artisanal, modern American beers (their Revolution series) and classically-crafted European styles (their Reverence series), and a fourth brewery, Urban Chestnut Hallertauer Brauerei, in the Hallertau region of Bavaria where it brews their Hallertauer Serie; small batches of locally sourced, Bavarian bier.

 

 

Major Brands Launches Safe Home After Every Occasion

For Immediate Release: November 16, 2016

St. Louis, MO – Just in time for the biggest socializing night of the year, Thanksgiving Eve, Major Brands, Inc., Missouri’s largest family-owned distributor of premium spirits, wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages is announcing its new year-round social responsibility program, Safe Home After Every Occasion.™  Safe Home encourages all of us to plan ahead and secure a safe ride home before consuming alcoholic beverages.

Safe Home is a 365 day a year social responsibility program designed to make planning a safe ride home before a night out a habit, just like crating the dog, turning off the lights and locking the door.  The program’s mission is to take the next step in responsible consumption efforts and to ensure–when getting a ride has never been easier with ride services and downloadable apps–that no one goes out to socialize without a plan for a safe ride home.  Partnering with its sponsors, Beam Suntory and 4 Hands Brewing Company, Major Brands will offer reminders of the importance of planning your ride home throughout the year with Safe Home Squad special events in Missouri bars and restaurants and free ride homes on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eves.

Safe Home is launching in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield before the Thanksgiving holiday with kick off events at local bars and restaurants.  To start the holiday partying season off smart, Safe Home After Every Occasion is offering free rides home on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eves this year through its Missouri driver service partners.  DShofer, a St. Louis-based ride provider, will service customers in St. Louis and Kansas City, and Substitute Drivers will service customers in Springfield.

“The Safe Home program is about planning ahead to make it home safely and making that practice a habit,” Sue McCollum, Major Brands CEO, said.  At Major Brands, we have long held that we build our business by building the communities we serve.  The first step in that process is encouraging all in our community to get home safe after a night out.  In our business, promoting responsible consumption is the most important thing we can do.”

To date, Major Brands has helped more than 65,000 Missourians get home safely after socializing through its partnership with designated driver service DShofer (formerly ScooterGuy).  This partnership was recognized nationally in 2012 when Major Brands received one of the industry’s highest honors for its for social responsibility efforts.

The Safe Home program is made possible through the support of Major Brands’ supplier partners, Beam Suntory and 4 Hands Brewing Company.  Beam Suntory is a global wine and spirits leader best known for its bourbon brands, including Jim Beam Bourbon, Maker’s Mark, and Knob Creek, as well as its own Drink Smart® initiative, which encourages safe celebrations and pre-planning.  4 Hands Brewing Company is a St. Louis-based craft brewery, known for its community involvement and great tasting innovative beers, including Incarnation, Chocolate Milk Stout and Contact High.

“No longer do you need to hand your keys to a friend.  Instead, make a plan before you leave the house,” Kevin Lemp, founder of 4 Hands, said.  “Despite the awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, there’s still more we can do to shrink those numbers.  At 4 Hands, we want everyone to enjoy the holidays and get home safe.”

 

 

Major Brands Names Scott Johnson President of Sales, Succeeding Barry O’Neil

For Immediate Release: March 8, 2016

St. Louis, MO – Major Brands, Inc., the largest Missouri-owned statewide distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, is pleased to announce that Scott Johnson will become President of Sales, effective May 1, 2016. Johnson succeeds Barry O’Neil, who is retiring after a distinguished career of more than 40 years in leadership positions for both suppliers and wholesalers.

In his new role, Johnson will direct all sales management functions, including sales team performance and supplier and retailer relations. Major Brands serves 9,000 customers in Missouri and distributes the products of more than 400 suppliers. Major Brands’ largest suppliers include Missouri-based St. James Winery and St. Louis Brewing, along with Constellation, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory and Jackson Family Wines. Johnson will report to Sue McCollum, Major Brands Chairman and CEO.

Johnson brings 24 years of industry experience on both the wholesale and supplier side to his new role at Major Brands. His career began at the E&J Gallo Winery Co. in Oklahoma, then he moved to Missouri, where he worked at Paramount Liquor Co. in St. Louis, leading the Gallo Division. From there, he moved to Allied Domecq Spirits and Wine, progressing from Missouri State Manager to a National Accounts role in California and then to Florida State Manager Chain Division. His next move was to Beam Suntory/Beam Global, where he has spent the last 10 years in successive management positions. His career at Beam has included a series of increasingly demanding roles: from South Florida State Manager to Florida Division Vice President to Western Division Vice President to California Division Vice President to his current role as West Region Vice President, based in Los Angeles. The move from California back to Missouri is a homecoming for Johnson, who hails from Kansas City, attended the University of Missouri, and met his wife, Seanna, in St. Louis.

“Scott is a fortunate find and a great fit for our culture,” said McCollum. “He brings exceptional industry knowledge from both the wholesale and supplier level to our business. With his extensive background in wine and spirits sales, he will further position our company for growth. We are excited to welcome him home.”

Johnson will work closely with O’Neil during the transition. O’Neil retired effective January 31, 2016, but remains a consultant to Major Brands. O’Neil served as president of sales for more than eight years. He led Major Brands to record revenues in 2012, as well as through unprecedented challenges following the passing of former Chairman and CEO Todd Epsten.

“Barry served as President of Sales during the most critical period in our 80-plus-year history,” said McCollum. “He practiced Major Brands’ core values daily—performance, integrity, respect, teamwork and community. I will be forever grateful to Barry for his contributions and leadership.”

Major Brands is Missouri’s largest Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and nonalcoholic beverages, with offices in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis. It serves more than 9,000 customers throughout the state. It began operations in 1934 and remains family owned and operated.

Major Brands Announces Employee Scholarship and Family Emergency Funds

For Immediate Release: October 24, 2014

St. Louis, MO—Major Brands, Inc., the leading Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, today announced the establishment of the Todd Epsten Scholarship Fund and the Major Brands Family Emergency Fund. Both funds are being established in honor of Todd Epsten, the late CEO and chairman of the Company, and Major Brands’ 80th Anniversary.

The Todd Epsten Scholarship Fund will offer Major Brands’ employees, their spouses, children or grandchildren the opportunity to receive a $5,000 per year scholarship towards a community college, undergraduate, or graduate degree. Five scholarships will be awarded each year, and each student will be eligible to continue receiving the award throughout their studies. The Major Brands Family Emergency Fund will be able to provide immediate emergency financial relief to employees who have suffered an unexpected loss.

“Todd knew that the best way to build a business was to invest in people and the community. He believed in the power of education and he loved the Major Brands family. I can’t think of a better way to honor his passion for giving back,” said Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum. To further celebrate its 80th Anniversary, Major Brands will be giving every employee a loyalty bonus in recognition of their efforts in the company’s struggle for survival for the past two years. In that time, the company not only lost Todd to brain cancer, it also was terminated by two of its largest suppliers. One month ago, the parties in the Missouri trial of Major Brands against Diageo and Glazer’s settled the case for a substantial payment made to Major Brands.

“As the CEO of Major Brands, I will be eternally grateful to every member of the Major Brands team who stood with our company. Without their support, hard work, and faith, we would not be celebrating our 80th Anniversary. The Todd Epsten Scholarship Fund, Major Brands Family Emergency Fund, and loyalty awards recognize our employees’ commitment to both our company and the communities it serves, as well as our commitment to our employees,” McCollum added.

Major Brands is Missouri’s largest Missouri-owned statewide distributor of premium, wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages. With offices in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis, it serves more than 9,000 customers and has more than 500 employees. It began operations in 1934, following the repeal of Prohibition. Joseph “Kewpie” Epsten founded the company, and Todd followed his father, Robert Epsten, as the third generation to lead the business. Sue McCollum, Todd’s wife, succeeded Todd as CEO and chairman, after his death in 2012.

Major Brands settles ‘liquor wars’ with Diageo, Glazer’s

Leisa Zigman, KSDK 11:38 a.m. CDT September 23, 2014

ST. LOUIS – Major Brands, the largest Missouri-owned distributor of wine, spirits, and beer, reached a settlement with alcohol producer Diageo and St. Charles-based distributor Glazer’s. The terms of what was only described as a “substantial” settlement were not disclosed, but Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum left the courthouse Tuesday morning with an ear-to-ear smile. Major Brands employs 500 people in Missouri and was suing Diageo, claiming it breached it franchise agreement when they switched its business to Glazer’s. In opening statements, Major Brands attorney Rick Walsh told jurors evidence would show damages to Major Brands neared $200 million. Attorneys for Diageo countered there was no franchise agreement and that Major Brands underperformed year after year.

Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum left the courthouse Tuesday morning with an ear-to-ear smile following the settlement. (Photo: KSdk)

A settlement was announced Tuesday morning with jurors saying the case was clearly heading in Major Brands’ direction.

“Diageo kept talking about performance but the contract they signed with Glazer’s, the standards they were setting for Glazer’s, Major Brands would not have fallen under those standards,” juror Aren Springer said. “They were claiming poor performance; it seemed Major Brands was in the driver’s seat.”

Major Brands issued the following statement: “The parties in the Missouri trial of Major Brands against Diageo and Glazer’s have settled the case for a substantial payment made to Major Brands…The company is happy to put this matter in the rearview mirror and remains committed to providing our retailers and suppliers with outstanding service and performance.”

Diageo followed with a statement of its own: “Diageo is pleased to amicably resolve this regrettable dispute. Diageo continues to distribute our beer and Smirnoff Ice lines with Major Brands, recognizing it as a well-run, family-owned business, which in the words of the late Todd Epsten, ‘uses its business to build the community.’ We look forward to growing that business in Missouri with Major Brands.”

Glazer’s issued this statement: “Glazer’s is pleased to announce that all pending litigation relating to the terminations of Major Brands by Luxco, Diageo and Bacardi has been settled. The settlement, in which Glazer’s has denied all wrongdoing, puts an end to our legal expenses and allows Glazer’s to focus on its suppliers, employees, and customers.”

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/23/liquor-wars-settlement-reached/16099475/

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2014

Statement on Major Brands v. Diageo and Glazer’s

St. Louis–The parties in the Missouri trial of Major Brands against Diageo and Glazer’s have settled the case for a substantial payment made to Major Brands.

Diageo issued the following statement: “Diageo is pleased to amicably resolve this regrettable dispute. Diageo continues to distribute our beer and Smirnoff Ice lines with Major Brands, recognizing it as a well-run, family-owned business, which in the words of the late Todd Epsten, “uses its business to build the community.” We look forward to growing that business in Missouri with Major Brands.

Major Brands is thankful to the Judge, the Missouri judicial system and the St. Louis citizens who sat on the Jury, and appreciates Diageo’s kind words about Todd. The company is happy to put this matter in the rear-view mirror and remains committed to providing our retailers and suppliers with outstanding service and performance.

Missouri’s liquor wars: Woman in a man’s world

Leisa Zigman, KSDK 10:39 p.m. CDT September 17, 2014

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/17/missouri-liquor-trial-sue-mccollum-major-brands-diageo/15792861/

A nasty fight involving millions of dollars, hundreds of local jobs, and a take-no-prisoners liquor war took center stage at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis Wednesday.

ST. LOUIS – A nasty fight involving millions of dollars, hundreds of local jobs, and a take-no-prisoners liquor war took center stage at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis Wednesday.

Sue McCollum is the only woman in the nation to own and run a liquor distributorship with revenues of $500 million.

She took over as CEO of Major Brands, an 80-year-old, family-owned Missouri business, when her husband Todd Epsten passed away from brain cancer in May 2012.

McCollum is suing international liquor supplier Diageo because she claims it illegally terminated its contract and gave $100 million in business to chief rival, Glazer’s.

You get the liquor in your cabinet from two major distributors in Missouri.

According to Diageo, Major Brands distributed 55 percent of liquor in the state and Glazers distributed 45 percent.

But Diageo argues, Glazer’s worked harder, had a better business plan and eventually sold more product. In opening statements it was revealed that Glazer’s is paying all of Diageo’s expenses in this case.

Diageo’s attorney, Lazar Raynal of McDermott Will & Emery of Chicago, argued Major Brands was failing to perform and consistently failed to reach its sales goals.

Before switching to Glazer’s, he said Major Brands missed sales by 50,000 cases.

Raynal showed a picture of Busch Stadium and asked jurors to picture every seat with a case of liquor, and then 4,000 more cases circling the bases to drive home the message of how poor sales were.

In opening statements McCollum’s attorney, Rick Walsh of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh implied that Glazer’s gave Diageo $20 million to lure them away from Major Brands.

Major brands is suing both Diageo and Glazer for breach of franchise law.

Supporters of McCollum say, this is more a case of those in a male dominated field pushing out a woman trying to save her family business and the jobs of 500 Missouri employees.

The legal crux of this case is Missouri’s franchise law.

That law prevents alcohol suppliers from terminating contracts without “good cause.” McCollum is seeking $200 million in damages.

The trial is expected to last three weeks with McCollum taking the stand perhaps has early as Friday.

Major Brands accepted a nomination from Beam Suntory to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Supplier partners and employees, some personally affected by ALS, were given the honors of pouring over Jim Havel, Tony Short, Carrie Ward, Sue McCollum, Dawn White-Weeks, Mary Goodman, Tom Schawang, and Barry O’Neil.

In addition to participation in the challenge, Major Brands also donated $1,000.00 to the ALS Foundation.

For Immediate Release: September 3, 2014

For more information please contact: Tammy Wheeler / 314.633.3606 tammy.wheeler@majorbrands.com

MAJOR BRANDS CELEBRATES 80TH ANNIVERSARY AND NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH WITH KEWPIES ‘N CREAM

Community partners to join in festivities at 9 a.m. September 5 at Major Brands St. Louis 

ST. LOUIS – Major Brands, Inc., the leading Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages is celebrating its 80th anniversary on September 5, 2014. The celebration will feature a specially created Bourbon Missouri Black Walnut flavored ice cream, “Kewpies ‘n Cream,” which was named after Major Brands’ founder, Joseph “Kewpie” Epsten and created especially for the occasion by Serendipity, St. Louis’ hand-crafted ice creamery.

Forest Park Forever President and Executive Director, Lesley Hoffarth, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri (BBBSEMO) President and CEO, Becky James-Hatter, both enduring community partners of Major Brands, will join Susan B. McCollum, Major Brands CEO, in scooping ice cream for the Major Brands team on Friday, September 5. A portion of Kewpies ‘n Cream prior sales on National Ice Cream Day at Serendipity was donated to BBBSEMO.

Major Brands chose September, National Bourbon Heritage Month, to mark its anniversary. Bourbon is distinctive to the United States and is considered America’s native spirit. Major Brands distributes Jim Beam and the Beam bourbon portfolio in Missouri.

In 1934, following the passage of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of Prohibition, alcoholic beverages became legal again in Missouri. In that same year, Joseph Epsten, also known as Kewpie, founded E-L Wholesale, in St. Joseph. Eighty years later, E-L Wholesale, now Major Brands, has offices in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield. With more than 500 employees, it serves more than 9,000 restaurants, bars, as well as grocery, chain and independent stores across the state.

“To stay in business–any business–for 80 years is an accomplishment,” McCollum, Major Brands CEO and chairman, said. “To stay in business in our industry, which has undergone massive consolidation, and in our state, where locally-owned wholesalers, such as Major Brands, have undergone threats by giant international liquor suppliers, it is a remarkable achievement.”

McCollum represents the third generation of family ownership of Major Brands. She succeeded her late husband Todd Epsten after he passed away from brain cancer in 2012. Robert Epsten, Todd’s father, opened General Wholesale, a second family wholesale operation in Kansas City in the early 1950s. Todd then led the company’s expansion into St. Louis and throughout the state in the late 1980s, resulting in the consolidation of the companies under the name of Major Brands.

Major Brands is one of but a few single-state, independently owned and operated wine and spirits wholesalers remaining in the country. Today, multi-state, mega wholesalers dominate. Major Brands is the only large wholesale wine and spirits distributor to be woman led and owned.

For more information on Major Brands’ history or its 80th Anniversary celebration, please contact Tammy Wheeler at 314-633-3606.

For Immediate Release: July 25, 2014

For more information please contact: Tammy Wheeler / 314.633.3606 tammy.wheeler@majorbrands.com

Major Brands to Acquire Missouri Beverage

Acquisition Reflects Major Brands’ Long-term Strategy to Rebuild Business

St. Louis, MO – Major Brands, Inc., the leading Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Missouri Beverage Company (MoBev), another St. Louis-based statewide distributor of wine, spirits and beer. The intended acquisition is part of Major Brands’ efforts to rebuild its business after the industry’s largest supplier, Diageo, unlawfully terminated its franchise relationship with Major Brands in 2013. Major Brands contends the unlawful termination was part of a concerted attempt with Glazer’s to break Missouri’s alcohol regulatory structure, and is contesting it in the courts.

“The last two years have been an incredible journey for the Major Brands team and for me personally,” said Major Brands’ CEO Susan B. McCollum. “When Diageo terminated us, we were expected to collapse. We withstood those challenges and are rebuilding our business. This is a tribute to my late husband, Todd, and our incredible team.”

Combining MoBev’s outstanding portfolio of suppliers with Major Brands would allow Major Brands to rebuild some of the business it lost in 2013. Its largest suppliers include Edrington, Wilson Daniels, Founders Brewing and Rogue Ales and Spirits. Bill Reichhardt, MoBev President founded the company in 2000.

“It makes sense to have Missouri Beverage join the Major Brands family,” Reichhardt said. “The outstanding performance MoBev has delivered to its suppliers and customers will only be furthered at Major Brands. This is a success story for both companies, our suppliers and retailers throughout the state.”

“The Garco acquisition last December demonstrated that we still have fight left in us,” McCollum said. “Our acquisition of MoBev is further evidence that Major Brands is committed to remain in business in Missouri and keep the Major Brands family together. We are confident that with the MoBev acquisition Major Brands will strengthen its position as a leading statewide craft beer distributor, and enhance our wine and spirits portfolio.”

MoBev’s suppliers will benefit from Major Brands’ superior statewide distribution network and highly educated craft beer, wine and spirits sales teams.

MoBev’s operations will be combined into Major Brands’ statewide wine, spirits and beer distribution business. Major Brands’ management and team will remain in place after the acquisition. Major Brands’ goal is to retain as many MoBev employees as possible. As part of the terms of the acquisition, the Wirtz family is making an investment in Major Brands. Wirtz Beverage had a minority investment in Missouri Beverage. Pending customary due diligence, regulatory approvals and concluding negotiations, the transaction is expected to close this fall.

Major Brands is Missouri’s largest Missouri-owned distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and nonalcoholic beverages, with offices in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis. It serves more than 9,000 customers throughout the state. It began operations in 1934, following the repeal of Prohibition and celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.