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Archive for Tuesday, January 19, 1999

MCDONALD BEVERAGE MYSTERY CONTINUES

January 19, 1999

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The longtime family-owned Lawrence beer distributor is now known as Classic Eagle, but no one will say why.

McDonald Beverage Inc. has become Classic Eagle, but the reasons are still a mystery.

According to Douglas County property records, McDonald's property at 801 E. Ninth has been transferred to a company called Classic Eagle Distributing LLC.

Beyond that fact, the fate of the Anheuser-Busch distributor that's served the Lawrence area for 65 years is open to speculation.

Officials of Classic Eagle, who apparently took the reins at McDonald Beverage about two weeks ago, declined to comment. So did Anheuser-Busch officials in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Kirk Lambright, said to be administrative manager at Classic Eagle, declined even to verify the spelling of his name.

"I'm not able to comment on anything," he said.

Greg McDonald, president of McDonald Beverage, has declined several requests for information over the past two months. "Down the road," he said Monday, "there will be a time when we can talk."

According to a Classic Eagle employee who declined to be identified, Byron Duncan is president of the company and David Duncan is vice president.

Word that McDonald was ending its 65-year run as Lawrence's Anheuser-Busch distributor came in November. But until the property transfer, which includes McDonald's Lawrence building and property elsewhere in its five-county territory, no information had been available.

That's led to some speculation about why the McDonald family gave up the franchise it ran for three generations. Some say Anheuser-Busch yanked it; others believe the McDonalds just decided to sell to the new owners, who are said to be from St. Louis.

The lack of information has frustrated at least one liquor store operator, who declined to be identified but complained, "The one thing that Budweiser's always been terrible at is relating things to their customers."

A little more than a year ago, Anheuser-Busch was the subject of a federal antitrust probe into the way it used its distributor system to squeeze competition, especially from microbrewers whose products were being distributed by Anheuser-Busch distributors. According to lawsuits filed across the country, the giant brewer had been pushing its distributors to peddle Budweiser and other company products instead of rival microbrews.

McDonald had distributed products for Free State Brewing Co., a small Lawrence brewery, for several years.

Regardless of the reasons for the change, it ends an era of Lawrence history.

The company was started by Greg McDonald's grandfather about 65 years ago. Frank W. McDonald, who had been athletic director at what was then the Haskell Institute, started the family business in 1933. He later passed the business on to his son, Clifford.

Clifford, in turn, passed the business to his sons Greg and Kent.

In a 1993 interview, Greg McDonald said the company employed 18 people and distributed beer in six northeast Kansas counties: Douglas, Anderson, Jefferson, Franklin, Leavenworth and Atchison.

-- Richard Brack's phone message number is 832-7194. His e-mail address is rbrack@ljworld.com.

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