Ed Pechar: Chairman of McCormick Distilling Company

My NativeAdVIce:

How did you get into the Beverage Industry?

Quite frankly, it was by accident.  I needed a job while I was in law school, so I worked for one of the major liquor companies at the time, Schenley Distillers.  I started in the purchasing department buying bottles and caps.  Over the years, I held a variety of positions, working my way up to management and eventually president – but that wasn’t my original plan.  I had planned to leave after graduating from law school and passing the bar, but they talked me into staying, and here I am 45 years later.  While at Schenley, I partnered with my colleague and friend Mike Griesser, also an attorney, and we began acquiring our own businesses, starting with Virgin Islands Rum Industries, Ltd.  We parlayed our ownership of that business into the acquisition of McCormick Distilling Company, where I remain to

day after more than 20 years.   At McCormick, we have an ongoing commitment to innovation, which is how 360 Vodka was born.

What inspired the creation of 360 Vodka and what is your vision for the brand?

When we launched 360 Vodka, there was a great deal of emphasis on the environmental movement and there was no product in the luxury category that addressed the matter of sustainability.   We knew we could demonstrate our commitment to the environment by creating an eco-luxury, sustainable brand that was packaged in a beautiful bottle, made from recycled glass with labels made from recycled paper, filled with the smoothest tasting vodka, and there would be a market for it.   As 360 Vodka continues to grow, our vision remains the same: to create the best quality vodka.

What differentiates 360 Vodka from other vodkas?

360 Vodka is the only eco-luxury sustainable vodka on the market today, and it offers an award winning taste without the inflated price tag.  Everything for the brand is produced locally, from the glass to the grain, distillation, and more, which reduces our carbon footprint and ensures precious energy isn’t wasted.  

What trends are you noticing in the beverage industry and how do you capitalize upon them?

In an industry where the trends are ever-changing, the current most obvious trend is the popularity of what we call brown goods – whiskies, bourbons, rye and their variations.  Time honored products, such as bourbon, now even come in flavored versions such as honey, cherry, or cinnamon.  While McCormick does not maintain a large whiskey portfolio, we recently introduced an entry called Triple Crown North American Blended Whiskey which is doing extremely well in key markets where it has been released.

What strategic partnerships are you implementing that have contributed to 360 Vodka’s success?

In the beverage alcohol industry our distributor partnerships are key.  They helped us secure the position of growth we’re in today, which is leading to expanded distribution.   Also, our relationship with Global Green USA has also been important as it celebrates our key point of differentiation among audiences who share our commitment to the environment.  

Describe an ideal situation to drink 360 Vodka.

The best thing about 360 Vodka is that as a clean white spirit, it can be enjoyed any time of the year and any time of the day.  I love it with lemonade on a warm summer afternoon, but after a long day of work, a 360 dry martini works every time.

Life Motto?

Just because it’s work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  

If there was one food and drink left on earth, what wold you choose?

A corned beef sandwich (from the Carnegie Deli) and a cold beer.


Role model?

Howard S. Feldman without a doubt.  I had the pleasure of working for him when he was the CEO of Schenley Industries, Inc., and he remains my very dear friend and mentor to this day.  At 96 he still travels extensively and enjoys life to the fullest, which we should all aspire to achieve.

You're advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Try not to get locked into a notion of where you are heading in life, because there will be unexpected twists and turns along the way, and it’s OK to try a different path or opportunity if it’s presented to you.   I didn’t expect to become an executive in the beverage industry – I thought would be the next Perry Mason – but here I am 45 years later with a wonderful career that I’ve enjoyed every minute of, and it’s far from over.   

Literature on your bed stand?

I don’t read in bed, but I am finishing the Robert Caro biographical series on Lyndon B. Johnson, and I’m presently reading a Matter of Intelligence, a fascinating history of the British surveillance of anti-Nazi refugees in the years following World War II.   For lighter reading, I’m enjoying the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.

Favorite travel destination?

Every spring, my wife and I go to Maui to watch the humpback whales as they birth their calves just off the coast.  It’s a beautiful island and one of the places I’m most able to relax.  

Most interesting headline you've read this week?

The US bombing in Syria.  The whole story unfolding in the Middle East should capture everyone’s attention because the potential for another prolonged conflict is something we should all be concerned about.


What’s next for 360 Vodka?

Onward and upward.  Our current path has been very successful when looking at sales growth, but we do have some interesting plans for packaging, with our Patriot bottle being the prime example.  We produced this patriotic packaging exclusively for the national holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and we will continue to look for other limited edition packaging opportunities.  Most of all, we will continue to put the best quality spirit we can in sustainable packaging with widespread distribution so everyone can enjoy it. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Edward Pechar is a native of Omaha and graduate of Omaha South High School and UNO (then University of Omaha) in 1963 with a liberal arts degree in speech communication.  In 1972 he obtained a Juris Doctor degree for the Salmon P. Chase College of Law in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was admitted to the Ohio and Federal Bar that year.

After serving in the Air Force and completing a tour in Vietnam he returned to civilian life and was employed by Schenley Distillers, Inc.  Over a 21 year career he held numerous executive positions in manufacturing, labor relations, HR and administration, culminating with being named President of the company in 1984.

He acquired Virgin Islands Rum Industries, Ltd., St. Croix, USVI, in 1987, marketing trademarks Cruzan Rum, Estate Diamond and others, and the company became the largest bulk rum supplier to U.S. bottlers and rectifiers.  He sold the company in 1994.

He acquired McCormick Distilling Company in 1993 and has served as Chairman of the Board since that time.  McCormick produces and markets McCormick Vodka, 360 Vodka, Tequila Rose strawberry cream, Triple Crown American Whiskey and many other brands and does business in all 50 states and 57 foreign countries.

He and his wife of many years, Maxine, have three children and three grandchildren, and divide their time between homes in Dallas, Texas and Bel Air, California.

He is a contributor to various civic charities, concentrating largely on those dealing with underprivileged youth.  He is a past board member of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in Collin County, Texas, and he is the sponsor and benefactor of the Edward A. Pechar Scholarship fund for UNO students, which is administered through the NU Foundation.