Dallas County is made up of five precincts, and for many years, beginning in 1957, only Precinct 1 was wet. This area was composed of downtown Dallas and several miles north. Because of this politically-created wet area those stores located on the wet/dry line had huge sales. These stores were not grocery chains, but package and c-stores, which could sell beer on Sunday. The c-stores were small, old, buildings with walk-in coolers with beer was stacked to the ceiling and in every corner. By Monday morning, most of the c-stores were wiped out of inventory.
One of these large c-stores was Elmer’s Drive-in, aptly named after Elmer, the owner. As a District Sales Manager for Lone Star Brewery, Elmer’s was one of my best volume accounts, so I visited often. When I left Lone Star to become the sales manager for Schlitz in Louisiana, Lone Star moved the DSM, Henry, from Oklahoma to Dallas. He had been in Oklahoma for many years when Lone Star had a brewery in Oklahoma City. Lone Star closed their brewery the 1960s as Coors ascended to a 70% share of the market
Elmer conducted a weekly poker game which Henry quickly became a part of. There was no such thing as a National Accounts department in those days; beer was sold on one’s relationships with owners of the store. There were many ways in which a brewery rep. established their relationship with an owner, poker being one. During one such late-night game between Henry and Elmer, the final hand came down to the two of them. Elmer raised Henry, and because Henry was unable to match the final raise, he offered up his bass boat in lieu of cash. Elmer accepted Henry’s bet and subsequently won the hand and the opportunity to receive the boat.
By this time it was well into the middle of the night, but Elmer insisted on following Henry home and getting the boat even though Henry tried to get Elmer to wait until the next morning. Henry took off with Elmer following him in his truck. After traveling a short distance they entered into a subdivision and went up and down several streets. Soon Henry slowed and stopped in front of a small, well-kept house. He got out and directed Elmer to back into the driveway and hook up to a nice bass boat. Henry hooked the boat up to Elmer’s truck, thanked him, and Elmer took off. About 45 minutes later, Elmer who now was about half way home, was pulled over by the Dallas police. He was arrested for stealing a bass boat!
Unfortunately for Elmer, Henry didn’t own a bass boat. He just drove around until he saw one in a drive way and hooked it to Elmer’s truck. The actual owner of the boat had been awaken as Elmer drove off with his boat and had called the police.
By the end of the next day, Lone Star beer was no longer available in any of Elmer’s stores! By the end of the week, Henry was no longer employed by Lone Star and looking for a new job.
The advent of National Accounts changed the way beer was sold for the better. As far as relationships, while still important in selling beer; they now give way to fact-based selling. As Yogi Berra once said, “We made too many wrong mistakes!”