Distributor Profile: Lakeshore Beverage Celebrates Five Years in Chicago

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Collaboration, intention, and training are just some of the ways that Lakeshore Beverage sets themselves apart as a premier Chicago distributor. Just five years since its beginning, they continue to prioritize their employees, the consumer, and celebrate suppliers by telling compelling stories and providing relevant and up-to-date information.

New Beginnings

Lakeshore Beverage was born out of a restructuring of City Beverage LLC and River North Beer,  spread across five offices in Chicagoland and Bloomington, IL. JR Hand, the CEO of Hand Family Companies, a distributor based in Clarksville, TN saw an opportunity for growth potential in the market in Chicago and in January of 2015 Lakeshore Beverage was born.

Director of Marketing, Wei Fraser remembers those early days and gives credit to the hard work of everyone involved in getting this new venture off the ground.

Hard work and a willingness to adapt were traits that came up pretty clearly in the process as a key to success; our team members invested many hours and adjusted to others’ best practices to develop Lakeshore Beverage’s identity.
Lakeshore Beverage headquarters

Beginnings tend to be full of challenges and it can sometimes feel like around every corner there is a new project or collaboration that can stretch the organization, but it is born out of these experiences that cohesive and intentional businesses are built. Lakeshore is no exception. Wei recalls that everybody was an expert in their microcosm. This sort of teamwork from the very early days helped Lakeshore Beverage work through inevitable culture clashes, and helped to bring the best from each organization involved in the merger and incorporate those together. 

Beverage Portfolios Grow

It has now been five years of Lakeshore Beverage, and they are not immune to the evolving landscape of beer, including changes in both federal and state legal interpretations to changes in retailer and consumer habits. Lakeshore Beverage is now invested in bringing the best of the best in beer and a selection of other beverages to the consumer. Broadening the scope of their focus to a varied portfolio reflects the desires of a more educated and aware consumer, as well as retailer demands. Lakeshore Beverage is adapting in order to stay compelling and relevant on all fronts.

So how do they do it? Training, training, training. With a level of commitment to their employees that rivals Chicago’s love for the Cubbies and White Sox, Lakeshore Beverage prioritizes their people in order to give the best service to the consumer in multiple ways. The leadership at Lakeshore Beverage wants to make sure that their people are engaged, educated, and trained in order to be the best employees and versions of themselves as possible. Their on-site trainer, Chris  Kolodziej has extensive experience in the industry, and brings his sales perspective to educate the staff on their growing product mix. Lakeshore Beverage has committed to pour into their employees not only an abundance of information about their beer and beverages, but also to be a leader in non-trade specific training including cultural diversity, harassment and ergonomics.

Partnering Where it Matters

In their first five years of operations, Lakeshore Beverage learned that collaboration is key. Not only are they intentional with their employees, suppliers, and consumers, but they also believe in holistic investment in the community and partner with several organizations through sponsorship and supporting charitable ventures that these organizations are involved with. Whenever Lakeshore Beverage partners with an organization, it’s more than just a sponsorship. While they are a sponsor of the Chicago Cubs, they support both Cubs charities and player charities. This trickles down to retail locations they work with like the Cancer Foundation through Lou Malnati’s. Lakeshore Beverage is committed to community partnerships for the good of their people and the community that their people live in.

Photo credit: Lakeshore Beverage

Matt Tanaka

Matt Tanaka is a digital marketer who lives in Chicago with his beautiful wife Laura and their incredibly lazy French Bulldog, Bento. He is an experienced writer, obsessive planner and firm believer in the ability of digital tools to connect brands with their audiences.