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Beverage businessman does right by customers and workers
Three was the charm for Pat Weinstein, owner and CEO of Weinstein Beverage Company. Nominated twice before, this year Beverage Industry Magazine named the Mercer Island resident “Bottler of the Year.”
“In December I get this phone call from the publisher,” he said. “Their panel is very, very conscientious.”
Weinstein Beverage was founded in 1937 as a Pepsi franchise by his father, Max Weinstein, who died in the early 1980s.
Weinstein said much has changed over the years in the beverage industry. In the 1940s and ’50s, every little town had a bottling production line. The bottlers would buy the Pepsi concentrate; Pepsi would give them certain requirements for quality control, and off they went. But that model became cost-deficient, Weinstein said.
Never forced into the family business, Pat Weinstein worked in the business a few summers when he was younger, but he pursued his education earning his graduate degree in city and regional planning. He lived in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife Susan and owned a socioeconomic and land use planning firm from 1970 to 1996.
In the meantime with Max in his 80s, Pat’s brother, David, joined the business. After two years, David Weinstein decided he wanted to move to Boston with his family, so Pat stepped in.
“I knew I wanted to run it differently, so I showed up in Wenatchee in 1978,” Pat Weinstein said. “I started from scratch. The first thing I had to do was deal with the co-op.”
He knew his strength was on the production end. By the ’70s, he said they had to go to the co-op model. He built a can line in Spokane and a bottle line in Wenatchee in the ’80s.
“We joined a co-op outside Olympia in Tumwater,” Weinstein said. “We had nine different bottlers in the Tumwater co-op.”
Consolidations continued until eight different production facilities became three.
“Such great distances didn't make sense to have all these small production lines,” Weinstein said.
They worked out an agreement with Pepsi corporate to form a co-op that included Washington, Oregon and Lewiston, Idaho. Eight different production facilities became three, under the name Pepsi Northwest Beverages.
“I own a huge three and a half percent of PNB,” Weinstein said, laughing.
But the co-op allowed the small bottlers such as Weinstein to stay in business without selling to Pepsi.
The Wenatchee facility is the key point of distribution for Weinstein Beverage.
Also, in the early ’90s, Weinstein decided that they needed to manufacture their own plastic bottles.
“We ended up being the largest manufacturer of plastic bottles in the U.S.,” he said.
In 1996 Weinstein and his family moved to Mercer Island from the Bay area. One of his children attended Islander Middle School. Weinstein likes Mercer Island because it’s in the middle of everything; his office is in Seattle.
“It’s just a very central place for us,” he said.
Weinstein said there is no reason for his company not to be around for a long, long time.
“We’re 10 times what it was from when I started,” he said.
Over a year ago, he hired Dan Crets to be the new general manager and chief operating officer. Weinstein said Crets has run big facilities, and really knows the business.
The company has also expanded into vending machine snacks, and cleaning supplies for school districts and cities, among others. In 2009 the company’s Wein & Stein LLC subsidiary received its wine license.
Weinstein Beverage is also active in local community charities. The company supports local sports teams and is a sponsor of Wenatchee’s annual Apple Blossom Festival. It also supports Wenatchee Valley Community College and pioneered a scholarship program with Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake.
Asked if he’ll retire any time soon, he said, “What would I do? I’d drive Susan crazy.”
And he figures at least some of his four kids will eventually play critical roles in the company, keeping it all in the family.