Q & A with John Niekrash
Vice President, On-Premise National Accounts
in the Mix recently had the pleasure of speaking with one of the hospitality alcohol industry’s most dynamic competitors, John Niekrash of Proximo Spirits. John’s energetic personality and “can do” attitude have made him an industry standout since the 1970s.
ITM: How long have you been in the Hospitality/Wine & Spirits industry and where did you get started?
John: Starting in 1972 and throughout my college years, I worked during summer breaks on the bottling lines for Heublein, before entering their sales department in 1978.
ITM: What is the best part of your job?
John: It’s all about the people. My best friends in life are in this great business – people I’ve worked with and sold to over the years. We’re all extremely fortunate to be doing what we do.
ITM: Do you have a drink of choice and what preferred foods would you pair with it?
John: Lobster and anything!
ITM: Any favorite customer story you’d care to share with our readers?
John: Stan Novack and I were in a castle in Scotland years ago and the group staying there at the same time was right out of a Fellini movie. We kept waiting for Inspector Clouseau to walk in the door.
ITM: Tell us something about yourself that others might find surprising.
John: I believe strongly in giving back. CORE-Gives and Work Vessels for Vets are two foundations I’ve been involved with and am very passionate about. Helping children and families in need in the restaurant/bar business and helping vets start businesses when they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan mean a great deal to me.
ITM: Do you have any words of wisdom for a rookie wine or spirits representative starting out in National Accounts?
John: Keep your mouth shut, listen, and learn. Remember to have fun out there; this isn’t rocket science.
ITM: What is your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate?
John: The 4th of July. We live in the greatest country on earth and should celebrate that. I usually spend it on the ocean lobstering and then celebrating with family.
ITM: Did you have a mentor or mentors in this business who were instrumental in guiding you along such an impressive path of success?
John: There are too many to list but probably the most influential was Charlie Herbert, President of Heublein when it began. He is an incredible guy and the best salesman I’ve ever known – a real leader.
ITM: Describe the primary philosophy and goals of Proximo Spirits.
John: We are a provider and importer of high-end spirits and are committed to a long-term growth philosophy.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy travel schedule to chat with us, John. We wish you and Proximo Spirits every future success.