House of LaRose patriarch Thomas A. LaRose was Akron’s king of beers

Budweiser has lengthy proclaimed itself because the “King of Beers,” however in Akron, that title belonged to Thomas A. LaRose.

As president and chairman of the Akron Distributing Co., better often recognized as The House of LaRose, he reigned over an empire of bottles, cans and kegs.

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His company, one of the largest beer and wine distributors within the nation, quenched thirst across Northeast Ohio, making deliveries everywhere from elegant eating places to neighborhood bars to grocery stores to sports venues to bowling alleys to non-public clubs.

LaRose, who died Sept. 22 at age 94, liked to say he was in the “now enterprise.”

“If I don’t have your brand proper now, you aren’t going to drink two tomorrow,” he as soon as told the Beacon Journal. “We don’t take orders for delivery in three weeks; we take orders for delivery today.”

Through his leadership, the household business grew into an industry giant that today distributes merchandise to more than 5,200 customers in eight Ohio counties.

Beer kegs are stacked floor to ceiling in 1980 at the House of LaRose warehouse on Opportunity Parkway in Akron.

Father began House of LaRose

Before he was king, LaRose was prince. His father, Thomas P. LaRose, founded the corporate.

The elder LaRose (1902-1962), the son of Italian immigrants, moved from New York to Ohio in 1915 and landed a job at B.F. Goodrich Co. in Akron. His father, Anthony, labored as a gardener on the property of John D. Rockefeller, and advised his son that he may reach any business through hard work.

“If you need to be a shoemaker, be a good one,” he said.

The two of them put together sufficient money to purchase a jitney bus to function on East Market Street. The business was so profitable that by the time he was 25, Thomas operated the Portage Lakes Transportation Co., the Summit Theater Co. and Blue Lantern Ballroom.

He and his wife, Josephine, welcomed son Thomas A. LaRose on May 23, 1928. The family resided on Delia Avenue, moved to West Market Street and attended St. Sebastian Church.

Brothers Thomas, Peter and Joseph LaRose top a Beacon Journal advertisement for the House of LaRose in December 1951. Thomas Jr. is featured below them along with a newcomer to the Akron family.

When the economy soured in the course of the Great Depression, LaRose Sr. joined the Akron Brewing Co., promoting White Crown beer. He remained for six years, serving as sales supervisor, earlier than establishing the Akron Distributing Co. in 1939 with brothers Peter and Joseph in the Central Garage at 120 Ash St. 

LaRose Jr. attended Akron Public Schools, worked as a Swensons curb boy, performed quarterback for Buchtel High and graduated in 1946. He attended Ohio University, pledged Phi Delta Theta and returned home with a enterprise diploma.

In 1950, he entered the household enterprise.

From Iron City to Budweiser

The House of LaRose expanded to larger quarters at 830 S. Main St., distributing Goebel, Iron City, Tech, Schlitz, Labatt, Old Dutch, Drewerys, Imp, Black Horse, Guinness and Burger earlier than including Anheuser-Busch products in 1956.

“With especial delight, we are happy to announce our selection as a wholesale distributor of Budweiser, King of Beers, packaged and draught, and Michelob draught,” the corporate marketed. “We commend the world’s most famous beer to our friends all over the place.”

In addition, the House of LaRose grew to become the local distributor of Canada Dry, famous for its ginger ale, as well as several manufacturers of wine and champagne together with Mogen David, Martini & Rossi, Asti Spumante, Paul Masson, Dubbonet, Petri, Meier and Great Western.

The House of LaRose has been distributing Anheuser-Busch products since 1956.

Akron Distributing Co. widened its market with the 1958 acquisition of Mitchell Distributing Co., a Youngstown wholesaler of Anheuser-Busch beers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

But the company’s shiny future dimmed in 1962 with an unexpected loss. Founder Thomas P. LaRose died of a heart assault Nov. 19 at age 60.

Grieving son Tom, 32, took over as president, and with the help of uncles Joe and Pete LaRose, led the corporate from a time of uncertainty into an era of unprecedented progress.

“We’re a close-knit family,” LaRose once defined. “We struggle like hell, but we have a warm relationship.”

Emulating the Budweiser slogan “Making Friends Is our Business,” the LaRose family treated employees and customers like kin. Employees proudly carried the company banner into Akron industrial leagues, competing in bowling, basketball, softball, soccer and different sports.

The company added Genesee, Schaefer and Busch manufacturers to its lineup and made plans to switch its outdated quarters on Main Street. In the late 1960s, the House of LaRose built a $500,000 home at Wolf Ledges and Cross Street within the Grant-Washington city renewal area. In lower than a decade, the 25,000-square-foot complex can be too small.

LaRose was elected chairman of the Anheuser-Busch Wholesalers Advisory Panel, which represented the brewing company’s 950 distributors throughout the nation. He also led the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wholesale Beer and Wine Association of Ohio.

An avid golfer, he served as basic chairman of the PGA Tour’s American Golf Classic at Firestone Country Club. In addition to being the president of Akron Golf Charities, he was founding president of Keep Akron Beautiful and served on the boards of Akron Children’s Hospital, amongst other local entities.

He and his spouse, Jeanne, raised five kids — Tim, Ann, Frank, Mark and Jim — who all grew up within the House of LaRose and served in management positions.

Largest wholesaler in Ohio

In 1979, the Akron firm acquired the Drenik Beverage Co., the Cleveland distributor of Anheuser-Busch product, to become the most important wholesaler in Ohio.

“We don’t have the share of the market in Cleveland that we have in Akron,” LaRose noted. “We’ll work on that. And there may be more enlargement in the future.”

In a little over a decade, sales had jumped from $2 million to $45 million. The company had nearly 70 employees in Akron and 175 at three warehouses in Cleveland. 

Anheuser-Busch President Augustus Busch III, eight Clydesdale horses and a 3½-ton Budweiser wagon were current when the House of LaRose opened its $2.5 million building at 350 Opportunity Parkway in Akron. Built on an 8½-acre website, the complex included a 60,000-square-foot warehouse and 9,000-square-foot workplace area.

“We love Akron,” LaRose said. “The huge marketplace is Akron.”

The House of LaRose opened a $2.5 million building in 1980 at 350 Opportunity Parkway in Akron.

The constructing had the capacity to store more than 6 million cans of beer, which if laid finish to end, would stretch 475 miles to New York City.

The warehouse surroundings was exactly managed. In keeping with Anheuser-Busch specifications, packaged beer was saved at a most of 55 degrees in the summer and 44 within the winter. Draft beer was kept at 38 degrees.

“Beer is at its finest when it leaves the manufacturing facility,” LaRose mentioned. “We are very involved about its freshness.”

He described Anheuser-Busch executives as powerful however honest in their supervision.

“They are setting very high requirements for the distribution of their products,” he stated. “They examine our operations on a daily basis. If they ever discovered a load of beer beyond its stamped shelf life, they’d order us to dump it. And we’d need to dump it.”

By the top of the final decade, House of LaRose commanded almost 50% of the beer market in Summit, Portage and Medina counties. Forty vehicles, emblazoned with a red rose brand. made rounds each day in Akron.

In 1989, the company accomplished a $1 million growth on Opportunity Parkway and broke floor on a $9 million advanced in Cleveland.

Budweiser beer cases are stacked inside the House of LaRose warehouse on Opportunity Parkway in 1980.

While industry observers predicted a chronic droop in beer gross sales in the late 1980s, LaRose expressed confidence in a market rebound.

“The baby boomers are getting older,” he informed the Beacon Journal. “Think of this: Foods you didn’t like as a baby, you eat now. Drinks you favored, you don’t drink now. Tastes change. People will come again to beer.”

Mayor Don Plusquellic proclaimed Feb. 24, 1993, as Tom LaRose Day. 

LaRose consolidates in Brecksville

Over the decades, LaRose endured product shortages, labor disputes, rising prices and different issues, however business grew. In 2004, the corporate consolidated its Akron and Cleveland operations at a $30 million website in Brecksville. 

The state-of-the-art constructing offered 300,000 sq. ft of office and warehouse house with enough capacity to retailer 1.5 million cases of beer and other drinks.

In 2007, Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank moved into the distributor’s previous residence on Opportunity Parkway, the place it remains right now.

The House of LaRose unveils a rendering of the Brecksville complex where it would move in 2004.

Chairman emeritus Thomas A. LaRose, 94, a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, was surrounded by household and pals when he died peacefully at residence Sept. 22. He was preceded in dying by Jeanne, his spouse of 66 years, who died at age 87 in 2016.

Today, the House of LaRose distributes such products as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Yuengling, Corona, Goose Island, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Dad’s Root Beer.

After greater than 80 years, the household link continues with Thomas “Tim” C. LaRose, chairman and chief executive officer, and James P. LaRose, president and chief working officer, main a workforce of over 300.

A toast, then, to Thomas A. LaRose.

Raise a glass. Raise a bottle.

Here’s to Akron’s king of beers.

Mark J. Price can be reached at [email protected]

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