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True Sake - The Next Chapter In Our History

true sake april 2009Be careful what you wish for. Perhaps three years ago a certain "guy" came and visited True Sake and made his "astonishment" very well known. Said guy for the next three years would come to the store and would always extol our service and selection virtues. I clued into his "service" fascination early on and asked him what he did for a living. He replied that he was the "Western States Manager" for a "very big beverage corporation." The "guy" would never divulge where he worked. It loomed as a personal mystery for me.

Fast forward to last spring - when the "guy" called me on my personal line and left a message saying that he wanted to "talk about an opportunity." Ohhhhhhhhh now he wanted to talk! After three years of snooping he wanted to talk. I of course picked on him relentlessly during the first "call." "So you have remained silent for three years and NOW you come at me?" "For three years you've been slinking around the shop - poking through our daily routine - sizing us up, and now.... Only now do you come and want to talk?" I sort of felt cocky so I could abuse him in an innocent kind of way. He loved it.

The "guy" is in fact a great guy! His name is David Zurbin, and indeed he was the "Western States Manager" for a corporation three - even two years ago - but is now "THE" man - V.P. of Sales "world wide" for ABS (American Beverages Services) the largest alcohol vendors for stadium, events centers, and large arenas across the US, Canada, Mexico, and many South American countries. There is no doubt you have purchased a beer or glass of wine from ABS - they are that big.

So in the "phone call" David - who is a big sake nut - asked me if I ever wanted to drink sake at a baseball game. "They do in Japan", I replied. And yes - I have always wanted to drink sake at professional sporting events (I am tired of smuggling sake into games in my tetra-pak sake containers). Basically a nice sake or two would do wonders to enhance the spectacle on the field, court or ice. No question! I then asked "why?" To which he replied, "Beau are you sitting down?"

In two years David Zurbin convinced ABS that sake sales at professional sporting events and conventions would do very well today and in the future. But as he told me - "I'm not qualified to make the whole story work, and that is why I need you and True Sake to pitch us." Huh? "You're joking right?" "No not at all - I am so stoked about this and you are the only guy who can pull it off." No pressure there! So in the next three phone calls and two meetings David charged me with the task of presenting my "Plan" to "vend" sake at these types of events. "I want you to craft a one page selling plan that distinguishes why sake sales at stadium or event centers would work and how best you would execute it," he smiled as he said this. Damn I love his enthusiasm.

The "plan" wrote itself in 15 minutes. But I drafted and re-drafted it about 20 times to make it absolutely perfect. I did not think companies like ABS take half-hearted actions well. So I tried to nail it. Yes, even in one page - which is hard as hell. Basically they wanted my business plan down to the detail in one page. So I gave it to them. It was my intention to share in its entirety the "page of infamy" with you readers, but David asked that I refrain from doing so. I asked if I could provide some of the "details" and he said, "fire away." So herewith are a couple of "elements" of my proposal to sell sake at professional sporting and convention events.

  • The "sake-vending stand" would have to be near a similar wine vending station.
  • The stand will not be decorated/adorned in a traditional Japanese manner - featuring typical Japanese elements. (The color/presentation schematics will be modern and very "western" in scope)
  • The stand will feature two sakes only.
  • The stand will offer a full-bodied Junmai to speak to red wine drinkers and a clean crisp Ginjo for white wine drinkers.
  • The stand will only use 300ml bottles.
  • The stand will use plastic cups with a stem similar to disposable event wine glasses.
  • The pour size will be 4oz and this will result in three pours per bottle.
  • The sakes will be served very cold (35-40 degrees) on warm/hot days and (40-50 degrees) on cool/warm days.
  • There will be no nicknames or dumbed down names that become "locally" themed names for the sakes.
  • There will be "sufficient" quick information about each sake that will allow a consumer instant decision-making actions. (ie TasteMatch).
  • The price point of sake sales will be in-line with wine and cocktails.

The results were shockingly well received, and I flew to New Jersey to meet the "big boys" face to face to strike the deal. The good news is that the company is incredibly solid, the better news, for me at least, is that they have a wicked sense of humor. Under David's guidance they jerry-rigged one of their beer around-the-neck-portable- vending trays used up and down isles at stadiums to look like a sake tray. "Beau we want you to try our 'Sake Sale Service Tray" to see how it would feel and how well customers would perceive it." Huh? Nobody said that we would be selling sake by hand out in the stadium. Immediately my head slipped into action and I blurted out "this is all wrong." Why? Because we would need an under tray cooler system to keep the sakes cold, we would also need for the bottles to be plastic and brewers don't do plastic - they saw the look of concern on my face and burst out laughing.

Fast-forward again to Opening Day 2009 for MLB in San Francisco. This April will see the next evolution of sake sales spearheaded by True Sake in the form of selling sake at major sporting events. The first- ever Sake Stand outside of Japan will be found near the "Spring Valley Wine Stand" on the Club Level at AT&T Park for the SF Giants home opener. This stand represents the "beta" stand for future consideration. If we move enough brew then we will open ten more stands at various ballparks around the country before the All-Star Break, and who knows how many more by October. And yes - they chose baseball as the first sport, and we have had only short discussions about football, basketball, and hockey. But, we will make those work as well!

So come to AT&T park to the "True Sake Stand" and order lots and lots of brew. We will be pouring two different sakes - I am not allowed to say which ones, but you know and like them - and yes they are imported! And by no means should you sit in your seat waiting for the "Sake Guy" to come down the isle yelling "Sake! Cold Sake! - Get Your Sake!" He won't be there. Not this season at least!

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