Partner Profile #1 - Chris Kunda, Kunda Beverage
One of the most gratifying elements of owning and operating a business is having the opportunity to meet like-minded people with whom to partner. Given the myriad of disciplines required to successfully navigate the craft beer industry, the network of folks who have played a role in our growth is both large and diverse.
Some of these meetings have been chance encounters, brief conversations illuminating an important point or two for us to consider on our journey towards opening Workhorse. Others have led to long-term relationships, with deep bonds formed and regular, consistent support. In order to fully understand who we aim to become, we feel it's critical to share the stories behind these individuals and organizations, highlighting their piece of the overall Workhorse puzzle.
This first featured profile in our series belongs to Chris Kunda of Kunda Beverage, a nearby neighbor in King of Prussia and a 4th generation proprietor of his family's business. When we first began due diligence in the area surrounding what is now the location for our brewery, we popped into Kunda a few times--OK, a lot of times--to peruse the selection and learn more about their thoughts on the state of craft beer. We didn't immediately announce our future intentions, instead opting to get unfiltered (I'll take beer puns for $800, Alex) insight on craft from a industry veteran. What we found--in addition to a boatload of suds--was an operation built on similar principles of hard work, customer service and dedication to their trade. Over time, as we revealed the details of our project, we struck up a friendship and common bond over shared goals in hospitality, quality and Eagles football.
We spoke with Chris recently to learn more about his family's story, his views on the industry and the secret sauce behind nearly 100 years of business longevity.
Workhorse Brewing Company: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, Chris. We're looking forward to officially joining the KoP beer community. Can you give us a brief overview of the family business, including your origin story?
Chris Kunda: The company was founded in 1920 by Watson Kunda, my great-grandfather, in Swedesburg, PA, the lower part of Bridgeport. He continued selling beer out of his house during Prohibition (Ed. note: take that, Volstead Act!) and eventually, he used the brewing contacts he had quickly built to keep the supply chain open. Upon their return home from WWII, my grandfather and great uncle succeeded their father. In the late 1940s, they moved the business to a spot on route 202 in King of Prussia, less than a mile from where we finally ended up in 1971, our current location on S. Henderson Road. Eventually, we grew to a substantial size and needed a secondary warehouse for our wholesale venture. In 2007, we got out of the wholesale business and currently solely focus on retail, along with some minor bar/restaurant delivery as well.
WBC: Did you consider other professions or were you groomed to work in the family business?
CK: I grew up in the business; in the store and in the warehouse. The 50-ish employees were every bit of family to me. I went to college to study business, specifically marketing, with the idea that I'd see what other opportunities were out there with regards to a career. The funny thing was that everything I learned, I thought about how it would affect/help/change Kunda Beverage. So I knew somewhere in those first couple years of college that I proudly wanted to be the 4th generation of "Beer Men" in my family. I spent a winter in Wyoming after college (moonlighting by loading trucks for the local beer wholesaler, go figure) and then it was back to KoP, for all intents and purposes, to start my life's work.
WBC: What’s a day in your life look like?
CK: My day consists of wearing a multitude of hats around the shop. Everything from placing orders with wholesalers, to running the cash register, to employing social media, to making deliveries, etc. There is no job too big, or too small for that matter.
WBC: What’s currently in your fridge at home?
CK: Contrary to popular belief, my fridge isn't full of crazy one-offs and barrel aged beers from a decade ago. I keep a wide rotation of IPAs that I prefer to drink fresh, so they clearly aren't in there too long. I'm also way too into sours at this point, so they always have a special place on the shelf. I have a small "wine fridge" where I keep the rare stuff, but even those don't last too long as I tend to gift a lot of them to loyal customers and friends.
WBC: Who are some of your favorite local breweries? How about most impressive new-ish brewery?
CK: My favorite local brewery right now? That's a hard question to answer. I've been really impressed with Levante as of late. After that, I think Sterling Pig and Stable 12 have both made some real noise in the industry. It's really hard to hammer down who I think is the best, as every one of these local breweries has at least one or two impressive styles.
WBC: What makes your business successful/how have you been able to stick around for so many years?
CK: The reason I feel like we are successful and have had such longevity is three-fold. First and foremost, we hang our hats on our customer service. This is everything from recommending the right style, to finding a great alternative for someone willing to venture a little outside of their comfort zone. Secondly, consistently making the customer feel welcome and unafraid to ask a question. Also, we keep the store clean, well-lit, and organized. I always keep women in mind when I look at the store. A man will buy a case of beer off of a dirt floor (Ed. note: guilty as charged). A woman will not. Thirdly, our beer knowledge as a staff goes far beyond the majority of our competition, and in the current industry environment, this is essential to future success.
WBC: Favorite Philadelphia sports moment?
CK: This is easy for me. We've been Eagles season ticket holders for 58 years and I've been to numerous NFC Championship games, as well as a Super Bowl. Sadly, not the one we won. But none of those compare to sitting in left field for Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, watching Brad Lidge throw that final strike, and getting to hug my dad and cry with him. An unreal moment that I'll always cherish.
WBC: This has been a real treat. Anything else to add/that you want us to share?
CK: Something I was thinking about the other day is about life coming full circle. In the 1920s, my Great Grandfather was buying almost exclusively from a small brewery no more than two miles from Workhorse. The Adam Scheidt Brewery building still stands (now re-purposed, of course) in Norristown. So now here we are, just shy of 100 years later, and there's a brewery opening up even closer to our business that I plan on buying plenty of beer from.
Keep tuned to this space for future partner profiles, and look for updates on tasting/pairing events with Kunda Beverage when we launch later this summer. You can learn more about Kunda Beverage--including new releases--by visiting their website or following them on Twitter and Facebook. Kunda Beverage is located at 349 S Henderson Rd, King of Prussia, PA 19406.