ST. LOUIS (MARCH 8, 2022) — Major Brands announced today that Chief Executive Officer Sue McCollum will be leaving the company in April. McCollum is the last member of the Epsten family to lead Major Brands, which was founded in St. Joseph, Missouri, by Joseph “Kewpie” Epsten following the end of federal Prohibition in 1933.
Throughout its history, Major Brands has been one of the most influential wholesale wine and spirits distributors in Missouri, stressing strong service to its customers and a responsibility to the wider community.
The company expanded from St. Joe into Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1950’s under Kewpie’s son Bobby Epsten. The Epsten family expanded their business statewide in the late 1980s, adding facilities in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Springfield and Columbia. Under Kewpie’s grandson Todd Epsten’s third-generation leadership, the company grew to be the largest distributor in the state. In 2012, following Todd Epsten’s death, his wife and partner Sue McCollum became Major Brands’ CEO. McCollum fought a series of high-profile battles to keep the company intact and to retain family ownership, prevailing in several high-stakes legislative and legal challenges that threatened the company’s survival, while outperforming in a dynamic, competitive marketplace. To stabilize the business, she led the strategic acquisition of two smaller Missouri distributors, Garco Wine Company and Missouri Beverage Company in 2014.
As a result of the Missouri Beverage Acquisition, McCollum entered a near decade-long partnership with the Wirtz family, which, like the Epstens, has a long history in the wine and spirits distribution industry. In January 2022, Breakthru Beverage Group, in which the Wirtz family has ownership, announced that it would be acquiring Major Brands, with closing to occur in early spring.
The leadership transition will have no impact on day-to-day management or operations. The local Missouri leadership and sales organization are expected to continue.
“It is hard to overstate the impact Sue McCollum has had on Major Brands and the industry,” said Danny Wirtz, Breakthru Beverage Group Vice Chairman and immediate past Chairman of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. “Sue has successfully led Major Brands for more than a decade while also finding creative ways to give back to the community and elevate and empower women in the industry. I know I am not alone when I say her legacy – and that of the Epsten family and Major Brands – will be lasting.”
In a letter to Major Brands employees McCollum attributed the perseverance of Major Brands to its people, their resilience and loyalty, and the company’s values of teamwork, performance, integrity, respect, and community.
“Leading Major Brands has been one of the greatest challenges and privileges of my life. It’s an honor to be a member of the Major Brands team, which stood behind me every step of the way when all questioned whether we could survive the loss of Todd and then our business. We succeeded because of the strong relationships the team built over decades and the support we received from the community, retailers and our suppliers. During all our challenges, the Major Brands team never lost sight of our guiding principle: we build our business by building the communities we serve. I look forward to continuing to support and root for the Missouri team and all its players as the spirit of Major Brands moves into the next phase of leadership and growth with Breakthru Beverage,” McCollum said.
About Major Brands Premium Beverage Distributors
Major Brands, Inc. is the largest Missouri-based distributor of premium wine, spirits, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, with offices in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia and Cape Girardeau. Major Brands, Inc. employs more than 600 people and serves more than 9,000 retail customers. It began operations in 1934 in St. Joseph, Mo. Throughout its 88-year history, Major Brands has been known for its culture and commitment to community. The company has been recognized for its social responsibility efforts, civic engagement, creative philanthropy and for always punching above its weight. Under Sue McCollum’s leadership, Major Brands and its community efforts received much recognition, including the EY Regional Entrepreneur of the Year Award, as well as being named one of four National Finalists for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Family Business Category in 2018. For more information visit, majorbrands.com.