Friday, July 25, 2008

Whoa, St. Louis!

I have been watching in shock and dismay as Belgian behemoth InBev gobbled up Anheuser-Busch in a pretty hostile-sounding take-over. (the first link is to a St. Louis Business Journal article which starts "Anxiety. Excitement. Disgust." The second link is to the WSJ Deal Journal article which almost sounds admiring when it describes the "...“Godfather”-worthy hints to A-B’s recalcitrant board....")

I lived in St. Louis, the home of Anheuser-Busch for ten years. Jim Milles grew up there, and I send him and all my St. Louis friends my condolences. According to my neighbors in South St. Louis, AB was a very paternalistic employer for many years under the previous chair, Auggie Busch. It was where blue collar kids aspired to get a job when they grew up.

Anheuser-Busch also sponsored the free and pretty cool Grant's Farm amusement place. (not really a park, it didn't have rides). It probably gave the Busch family a nice way to write off the grounds of their big mansion, but it also gave St. Louisans a wonderful FREE place to bring family and friends. You called a few weeks in advance and got your reservation. Then, you drove out to the Grant's Farm. You could visit some of the Clydesdales while you were there. You left the parking lot, and rode a motorized tram into the "farm."

You passed through fields housing exotic deer, antelope, bison and zebras. Then you got dropped off at the central area. There were miniature horses to pet. Cannon balls and fences made of civil war rifle barrels. A miniature zoo with a shows by trained birds and African elephants could be enjoyed. You could tour Ulysses Grant's home that was transported to the grounds. And you could rest up and have lunch in the Tier Garten. With beautifully carved stone grotesqueries, the brick buildings surrounded a brick-paved square. You could buy hot dogs, knackwurst with kraut, and sodas. And adults could get two free A-B beers. The bar tenders must have a wonderful memory for faces because they really did recognize if a person came back for a third beer. It was a wonderful and fun day for a family or group of friends.

At Christmas time, people who really liked a light display would drive through the brewery grounds, which were always decorated beautifully. Anheuser-Busch is a dominant player in St. Louis city life, and the citizens of that city must be waiting with some trepidation for what changes will follow on this acquisition. There is a landmark neon sign of the Anheuser-Busch logo, the A with an eagle entwined, sitting above a major highway through St. Louis. I hope it will still be there, and that the relations between the city and the company will continue supportive and warm in the future!


Terry said...

Why weep when one weaker beer buys another (speaking only of taste)?

Betsy McKenzie said...

Beer snobs can sneer. The first beer I learned to like was Bud Light. Tastes great -- less filling. I never have gotten to like the strong beers by and large. But you can see the main thing I regret is the nostalgia value of all the community things A-B brought to St. Louis.