"This is my favorite part of the day. I love the mornings,” says Barry Andrews, as we meet over breakfast. “I love it all the time, but I really love it in business. That’s when everything’s happening in our business. That’s when most people who are in-and-out of the office are there—sales, drivers.”
The head of Andrews Distributing still loves to walk the company’s Dallas warehouse, three times a day. He’s excited to see the people and equipment at work, receiving and delivering beverages from 27 different suppliers—ranging from Coors and Miller Lite to Rolling Rock and Red Bull—to bars, restaurants, and stores throughout North Texas.
“I feel fortunate to be doing something that I’m as fired up about today as I was on Day One,” he says.
Day One was in 1976, after he and a partner purchased the Coors distributorship in his hometown of Corpus Christi. Fast-forward all these years later, after parting ways with his partner and acquiring distributorships throughout much of Texas, and Andrews finds himself in charge of a company that boasts more than $600 million in annual revenue.
I met him at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday at Bread Winners on McKinney Avenue in Dallas. He doesn’t eat out for breakfast often—usually just has some oatmeal or cereal at home—but having picked this restaurant for our meal, he’s reminded that when he first moved to Dallas, in 1994, he spent seven months living in an apartment across the street.
“I tell you, the downtown area, just in the time we’ve lived here, it’s amazing the construction there’s been. I think downtown is poised for tremendous growth,” he says.
We both manage to resist the more indulgent options on the menu. He orders a cup of Earl Grey tea and a bowl of oatmeal with bananas. I get a glass of orange juice and bowl of granola with milk.
Wish I could have interviewed him at a happy hour instead, so that I might have tricked him into revealing his own alcoholic beverage preferences. When I ask about his own favorite drink, he merely grins and recites the well-rehearsed, diplomatic answer of the carefully controlled businessman (whose sales revenue comes from more than 200 product brands).
“I enjoy a lot of different beers,” is all he’ll tell me.
The granola, which includes cranberries and is topped by bananas and strawberries, is the tastiest bowl of cereal I’ve ever had. “It’s delicious. Good and hot,” Andrews remarks about his oatmeal. And what more can you ask of oatmeal?
The alcohol distribution industry is far different today than it was in 1976. From more than 400 distributorships in the state then, there are fewer than 70 now, due to consolidation. The growth of Andrews Distributing has led to the challenge of operating massive warehouses 24 hours, six days a week.
“Gives me a headache, trying to think of managing all that,” I say.
“Yeah, me too,” he responds with a smile.
The population gains in Texas, and in North Texas especially, have made it a fantastic place to be in Andrews’ business, and he doesn’t see any end to how much his company can grow.
But even that growth requires investment. Andrews has eight warehouses in North Texas—several acquired through purchases of distributorships in South Dallas, Lake Dallas, and Fort Worth—and he knows that the company could cut costs by consolidating its operations into just three, larger warehouses. That’s the plan, though it’s going to mean making a huge capital investment upfront. Andrews is downright philosophical about making this choice.
“You get opportunities to prove your commitment on a regular basis,” he says wryly. “Those are tough decisions.”
What he doesn’t think is so tough is knowing how to treat his customers. His business card features the company’s mission statement: “Brand Building is What We Do.” He considers it their job to promote the products they represent. He wants to do this as much for a small craft beer that represents only a tiny slice of Andrews Distributing’s business as he does for MillerCoors, whose products account for about 52 percent of its revenue.
“Treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s amazing how it works,” he says. “There’s no reason to try to make rocket science out of it.”
When the bill comes, there is a slight struggle over who’s going to pay. I insist that I must. Andrews relents, but says that he’ll take care of the tip. When we stand up to leave, I note that he’s dropped a $12 gratuity for our $20 check.
We leave the restaurant and walk to the parking lot around back, where we spot a truck being unloaded just behind Primo’s restaurant.
“Is that one of yours?” I ask. It is. Cases of Shiner and Pabst Blue Ribbon and Red Bull sit on the pavement, waiting to be carted in.
“Let me go say ‘Hi,’” Andrews says as he heads toward the truck.
I climb into my car and pull out of the lot. The last I see of him, he and the delivery guy are shaking hands and shooting the breeze.