In this episode, instead of talking about craft beverages, we take a look at the bottles they come in with CFO Dick Beauchine and CEO Rich Swinehart at Waterloo Container.
Norm and Bill Lutz started the company in 1980, about the same time the modern era of the Finger Lakes wine industry began. From their website:
“Starting with a small inventory of bottles, Bill traveled all over New York State to offer a new local service desperately needed in the East. Sales were steady and our winery customers began to expand and new wineries continued to spring up. Waterloo Container grew right alongside them and became a one-stop-shop – adding closures and shipping boxes in the mid-80s. We earned a reputation in New York and nearby states as a company with in-stock inventory, fast and reliable service and family values.
By the 1990s, Bill began stocking new and innovative bottles and offering customized and personal service to stay competitive in the Eastern United States and Canada. That’s also when we realized we needed a manufacturer located here in the United States. We started a partnership with an American manufacturer and never looked back. Today, we are proud to work alongside Ardagh, a manufacturer of glass bottles here in the United States. Our partners – just like our customers – have been extremely influential in our success and we are proud to work with the best in the industry for glass, corks and closures.
Over the decade that followed, we continued to add to our products and services to become the largest stocking distributor of glass containers and packaging supplies in the northeast. In 2004, we added a personalized packaging program that completes the branded look from bottle to box.”
We talked about the growth and evolution of the company from a supplier of bottles to the Finger Lakes’ emerging wine industry, to a one-stop packaging solution for wineries, breweries, cideries and more throughout the entire northeast. We discussed Bill Lutz’s decision to drastically expand their inventory right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, allowing them to avoid a lot of the supply chain issues that have plagued other industries.
We also discussed the partnerships with suppliers that have allowed Waterloo Container to expand their business and their belief in the personal touch exemplified by Bill’s wife Annette including personal notes in customer invoices and Bill once again getting behind the wheel when the company needed more drivers.
I thank Dick and Rich for their time and Mark Pitifer for setting up the conversations, taking me on a tour of the warehouse and explaining the operation.