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Idaho's Top Distributor of Fine Brews

First 60 Years

When Keith Stein came to Boise in 1956, just out of the Marines, he started a distributorship that sold regional beers and was struggling.

“He then set about to rebuild it from the ground up,” states John Grizzaffi, president, who has been with the company 11years. “He began acquiring more brands.”

Then, 10 years later, in 1966 ...

...Stein was awarded the Anheuser-Busch brands, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today Stein is celebrating its 50th anniversary and it is focused on the A-B portfolio including the affiliated brands of Widmer Brothers, Redhook Ale, Kona and Kirin

Its 100 employees serve more than 1,100 customers in 10.5 counties. That amounts to 600,000 people spread over a whopping 26,000 square miles. Stein ships 2.5 million cases a year, and 2006 sales are expected to be about million.

What has it taken for the company to succeed and continue to grow over the past half century?

We have a very strong management team, with strong managers in all areas,” says Grizzaffi, for a start. According to Grizzaffi, this strength funnels down and the managers empower supervisors to get the best people they can and build the best teams they can. 

This sets the stage for an innovative environment, where everyone embraces new opportunities for change and growth. “For example, we are always one of the first distributors to adopt new A-B programs,” he offers. 

We set very high standards for service. In fact, we set our standards higher than those that the suppliers set on us. The one thing we won’t do is compromise service. We also set very high standards for performance,” Grizzaffi adds, noting that the company achieves its performance goals by hiring the best people.

 “We view our business like a sports franchise,” explains Grizzaffi. “We won’t win if we don’t have the best people. We have very high standards of our people and we offer a more-than competitive wage and benefit package.
One example of Stein’s commitment to doing and being the best is the Commitment to Excellence (CTE) program. Each year, the company earmarks 45,000 (15,000 per trimester) for the program. 

Management sets a quarterly goal based on a combination of sales, expense control and operating income. It then asks everyone in the organization to do their part to help the company reach its goal. At the end of each trimester, whether the company hits the number or not, it schedules a barbecue for everyone in the company.

Following the meal, management presents the numbers for the quarter. If it reached its goal, the company divides the 15,000 evenly among all employees. 

It is not based on seniority, level or position in the company,” notes Grizzaffi.
The program has an impact. “For example, warehouse people are more cautious about how they handle products in order to reduce damage,” he says. “Delivery people do a better job delivering and the salespeople are focused on meeting the sales numbers.” As each quarter comes to a close, things get even more interesting. “People from different departments start talking to each other,” he continues. “For example, the delivery people ask the sales people how they are doing with sales numbers, and the sales people remind the delivery people to build the nicest displays they can.”

Still, though, despite the fact that everyone works hard, it all occurs in an atmosphere of fun. “Keith Stein founded this company with a family atmosphere, and we still have that today,” explains Grizzaffi. “We still sponsor company picnics for the entire families, and we still put on Christmas parties with dinners and music.

Keith Stein is still owner and CEO of the company...

and his personal belief in giving back to the community is another important part of the culture of the company.
“Keith has been involved in the community ever since he came here 50 years ago,” reports Grizzaffi, relating a story about Stein donating 50,000 to help fund furloughs for local Iraq-bound soldiers. 

Today the company not only contributes directly to community causes, but also supports its employees’ efforts by matching their donations.

Looking ahead, Grizzaffi says the company is forever focused on the future. “I love to win, so I’m always looking at what it takes for us to win today and tomorrow,” explains Grizzaffi, who says the topic is discussed at every management meeting.

“I want us to continue to be profitable and to grow our market share.” However, he believes, when you win, you still need to be humble, because “yesterday’s newspaper has yesterday’s news. 

We always work to be in a position so we can continue to win in the future.”

Beverage World article, March 15, 2007

Idaho's Top Distributor of Fine Brews

Stein Distributing Company, Inc. is a beverage wholesaler of beer, specialty malt beverages and specialty wine products. We service an area that covers over 30.000 square miles in 10.5 counties with a population of over 700,000 people.

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