NWA beer distributor Bob McBride dies

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 1,406 views 

Robert Owen “Bob” McBride, the longtime owner of Fayetteville-based McBride Distributing Inc., died April 4 in his Fayetteville home.

He was 72.

McBride assumed ownership of the Anheuser-Busch distributorship in 1964 following the untimely death of his father.

Following is the obit provided by the McBride family.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Bob McBride is that his final utterance was “Thank you.”

McBride, the man who took pride in a simple mantra of “I just sell beer,” died April 4, in his Fayetteville, Ark., home. He was 72.

Bob – or Duke, as the grandkids called him – learned service from an early age. He stood on crates as a kid to wash dishes at Mac’s Steakhouse, a restaurant his parents owned. The restaurant, now Herman’s Ribhouse, still stands. His parents also owned a motel. And in 1949, the family bought the business that would eventually become McBride Distributing Co.

When his father died suddenly and tragically in a home accident, Bob, at age 23, became the youngest Anheuser Busch distributor in the country. With his hair and shades and clothes and jewelry, some called him the “hippie wholesaler.” He loved the moniker.

Indeed, Bob sold beer in a college town and region he would watch become home to some of the largest companies in the world – with some of those company execs being childhood running buddies. Bob and his family managed a company that has put smiles on Northwest Arkansas residents and visitors from Dickson Street to Mountain Home who attend Hog games, bike rallies, weddings, wakes, birthdays, or just religiously observe the evening hours of the days that fall between Sunday and Saturday.

His “I just sell beer” philosophy was a blanket between the world and his eccentricities – a figurative blanket, it should be noted, that if literal would be covered in red velvet with gold trim and patterned with Cardinals (of the St. Louis baseball variety), Razorbacks, the Anheuser-Busch Eagle, and emblazoned in gold thread with the initials “R.O.M.”

Bob McBride was, most would agree, a complexity of contradictions ranging from his simple focus on service to his love of sugar cookies, popsicles and well-adorned women. Most folks know he was a generous tipper, but few knew that Bob knew how many sheets of Sparkle paper towels were required to provide a bib from neck to lap. Bob’s known and yet-to-be-known character quirks proved a welcome sight to friends and a friendly sight to those he’d welcome in his life.

Indeed, Bob loved the Cardinals, the Razorbacks and fancy cars and gold jewelry. The more gold jewelry, the better.

He was brand loyal with most products, especially paper towels, breath mints, toilet paper, paper sacks, vodka, scotch, mouthwash, Kleenex and deviled eggs. He was a helluva golf player in his younger days, and typically kept two lockers at his favorite club because he liked to freshen up and change clothes before tackling the back nine.

He once owned a one-eyed race horse. He also owned a plane and a party barge. He attended every major U.S. sporting event with the ironic exception of the Kentucky Derby. It was ironic in that he loved horse racing. For many decades, Bob was a twice-a-week visitor to Oaklawn in Hot Springs. There was not much he wouldn’t gamble on.

Being a sports fan, Bob gathered up a group of friends in January 1967 to head to the first Super Bowl, which was held in Los Angeles. Bob being Bob, they detoured first to Las Vegas. A fog prevented the charter flight from traveling on from Vegas to Los Angeles. The other travel option was to take a bus. Bob still has the unused Super Bowl tickets.

He was a generous tipper. It was not unusual for Bob to tip more than the cost of the meal. Restaurants, he believed, were for adults, with children allowed to join him on a restaurant trip only when they were old enough to read a menu.

If he found something he liked, he bought it in every color and sometimes two of each. That may or may not explain why he married four times – although he eventually found Linda Dare McBride who was able to navigate around and through his peculiarities and saw him through to the peaceful end.

While not an overtly religious man, he did pray, but usually just asked that elected officials do the right thing, and asked for mercies among those in the military.

Bob McBride was a member of the Washington County Quorum Court for many years, with, the family suspects, his favorite part of the job being able to preside over weddings. He bought a fancy and expensive outfit for the ceremonies. As a man who sold beer and conducted weddings, Bob McBride practiced value-added service before the term was invented.

He played a mean game of tennis and gin rummy. Didn’t care for dogs and cats. Especially hated snakes. Couldn’t get enough of old TV detective shows, The History Channel and almost anything by LeRoy Neiman. He loved to duck hunt, and was a generous donor to Ducks Unlimited.

He was a proud Pi Kappa Alpha and a yellow dog Democrat – although he was known to place bets on both sides of the ballot.

Bill was a friend of his.

He liked to dance. Didn’t care for the traditional Holiday dinners. He would rather fondue than fumble with turkey and dressing. Any beverage container in his refrigerator had to be in a straight line with the label facing forward.

When the commercial and residential markets heated up and everyone with a protractor and a hammer was a developer, Bob declined numerous “no-lose” real estate investment opportunities.

“I just sell beer,” he would tell any number of folks pushing the latest subdivision or office tower project.

Second to family, his most sentimental memories are of Vegas. Especially the golden days of entertainment when Jerry Lewis and Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis and Wayne Newton drew the high-rollers to Sin City. But it was Frank and the Rat Pack who most enamored Bob McBride. Bob loved red, but his favorite color was orange because that was Frank’s favorite.

And like Frank, Bob traveled first class and so did his friends and family. And like Frank, Bob was generous with his money because all he ever wanted was for his friends to come along and enjoy with him the rewards brought about by his simple focus on just selling beer.

He was unable to bring his family along on his most recent trip. Surviving Bob McBride are his wife Linda Dare McBride; daughter Angela Ryan (Randy); daughter Cheryl McBride-Morrison (Jim); and Linda’s children, daughter Angela Tilley (Michael); daughter Mandy Kelly (Dr. Owen Kelly); son Jason Dare (Darrell Riley); and eight grandchildren, Zach Ryan; Jamey, Kelby and Ian Morrison; Josie and Anna Claire Tilley; and Katie Grace and Hank Kelly.

Bob’s final event with family and friends will be held 2 p.m., Friday, April 12, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, with a reception following. The service and other arrangements are managed by Nelson-Berna Funeral Home in Fayetteville.

In lieu of any specific memorial, the family respectfully suggests the following options:
1. As you travel through life, tip just a little more and find an area in which you can be more generous.
2. No flowers, please.
3. Where possible, remember to end your encounters with a simple, “Thank you.”