Charlie Brown’s father worked at an upscale haberdashery in Kansas City. A client who was fond of him kindly offered, “If there’s anything I can ever do for you, let me know.” Prohibition was about to end, and Mr. Brown said he’d love to have an Anheuser-Busch distributorship. The client told him to name his spot, and his father moved back home to Aurora and established the business: Chas. E Brown Beverage Co. which would later become Missouri Eagle, LLC. On the day Prohibition ended, Mr. Brown received one of the first loads pulled out of the brewery.
Charlie was born in August of 1939 at the hospital in Springfield, the closest facility to his hometown of Aurora. As an only child, he was starved for attention and would often stay at the homes of friendly neighbors until he was politely asked to leave. He affectionately called himself the “neighborhood rat.”
At first, the family business was small but they were very satisfied. His dad was very close to Gussie Busch, grandson of the founder of Anheuser-Busch, who asked him to consider distributing in Lebanon near the new Army base, Fort Leonard Wood. Mr. Brown accepted, although there was nothing in the area and the Lake of the Ozarks was a non- entity. There was minor activity from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but otherwise closed. How things have changed!
Charlie with his wife and parents
One of Charlie’s earliest and greatest memories was attending his first Cardinals baseball game in St. Louis with his dad. For a little country boy, this was beyond belief and probably why sports eventually became such an integral part of his life. Throughout his youth he excelled in baseball, basketball and football. “One of the keys to any successful person is competitiveness,” Charlie said. “You compete daily in something, and competition was the thing I got from sports. I loved it.”
Charlie working as an umpire for youth sports
“I never knew what a curveball was til I went to the University of Missouri and couldn’t hit it a lick,” Charlie said. “I knew I wasn’t gonna make it long-term in sports.” However, his athletic prowess, a 20+ year officiating career, extensive recruiting efforts and state-wide philanthropy netted him a spot in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. His leadership was key in bringing the Babe Ruth Baseball World Series to Lebanon.
Charlie presenting a check for a local tennis court project
“If the phone rings and someone has a project for youth athletics, I’m in,” said Charlie. “I don’t want credit for the philanthropic things, but I get tremendous satisfaction seeing the kids enjoy them.
Realizing law school would require much more studying than anticipated, Charlie got involved in a political endeavor. A man he greatly admired, Robert T. Donnelly, ran for Congress and asked Charlie to be his campaign manager. Charlie planned to go to Washington to be his assistant. “I didn’t realize you had to win the damn election to go to Washington, and we got our plows cleaned on August 7th of 1962.”
Mr. Donnelly, who eventually became the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, gave him the greatest piece of advice he ever heard. “Forget law school, you go back to Lebanon and tell your dad you’re interested in getting in the business.” Charlie followed that advice and reflected, “He had more influence on me in that 7 months of campaigning than I got in four years of college. He made me a better person.” “When I joined the company in 1962, Dad had a group of 4 employees that had been employed too long, and I was the young buck who changed things,” Charlie remembered. “Although I hadn’t hired before, I brought in four guys who knew what I had in mind and bought into it, and became very prominent representatives of our company in the market. They were real people persons who knew we had to have the goodwill and trust of our customers. I was obsessed with customer service.”
Charlie had no idea his son would be interested in joining the company, but after college in 1984 he began making deliveries and spending time on the front lines with customers. “Watching him grow in the business was a fantastic experience, said Charlie. “He brought my two grandsons in; one is well-suited to administration and the other is just like his dad on a truck selling beer. I’m tickled to death I lived long enough to see that happen, and I wish my dad had seen four generations of family get involved.”
Charlie with family at a Cardinals game
Missouri Eagle LLC was honored to recently be named the #1 distributor in America, receiving the prestigious Anheuser-Busch Ambassadors of Excellence award. Charlie finds this unbelievable for a “little old operation from Nevada, Joplin and Lebanon, Missouri.” For those early in life, Charlie offers this advice: “First, set a goal. Decide what you want to do. It may change, but bust your butt and work hard. No such thing as ‘it ain’t my job.’ Set the example and attempt to achieve that goal. Enjoy the people you work with, and let them know how much you appreciate and respect them. Be a legitimate friend and person they enjoy being around. Relationships are the name of the game. That’s the salt of the earth and what makes the world go around.”
Charlie with his Son, Daughter-in-law and Grandsons
In his spare time, Charlie loves to read. He misses working in his yard, where he was a fanatic about his landscaping and never allowed anyone else to touch it. He hires landscapers now, and “supervises every damn move they make.”
“My secret to longevity is, of course, Budweiser!”